Sergei Lavrov
Moscow: There is no evidence of Russia's interference in US elections, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said yesterday, after the first charges were filed in the US against former aides of the Trump campaign.

“Without any evidence, as you know, we are being accused of interfering in elections not only in the United States but also in European states,” Lavrov told a meeting of business leaders in Moscow, according to the Interfax news agency.

The US was using a “pretext of a fight against a Russian threat in Washington” to muscle out Russian business interests in Europe, Lavrov said. Washington's latest sanctions against Moscow were designed to weaken Russia's position - in the arms export and energy sectors - to benefit the US, according to Lavrov.

US President Donald Trump's former campaign chairperson, Paul Manafort, and his business associate, Richard Gates, were charged with conspiracy and money laundering, related to lobbying work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.

While Monday's charges were the first from an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, they are not directly tied to the Trump campaign itself.

Ukraine's Prosecutor General's Office said yesterday the US charges against Manafort were related to two Ukrainian cases under investigation.

The cases pertain to possible financial crimes involving Ukrainian state funding, the head of the special investigations department, Serhiy Horbatyuk, said in comments carried by state news agency Ukrinform.

Meanwhile, a former foreign policy adviser for Trump's campaign, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia.

Papadopoulos is suspected of meeting a contact with ties to the Russian government, about thousands of emails supposedly damaging to Trump's Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

Papadopoulos admitted to lying to the FBI about the timing of meetings with Russian contacts. - dpa