Kremlin dismisses report of Trump campaign contacts with Russian spies

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By Maria Tsvetkova and Alessandra Prentice

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia dismissed on Wednesday as groundless a U.S. media report that said members of Donald Trump's presidential campaign had contacts with Russian intelligence officials.

The report, from the New York Times, has boosted concerns about Russia's role in influencing the outcome of the United States' election. U.S. intelligence agencies have already accused Russia of being behind the hacking of Democratic Party emails in order to help Trump, a Republican, to win.

U.S-Russia relations are under particular scrutiny following the inauguration of Trump, who pledged in his campaign to improve ties with the Kremlin after they deteriorated to their worst level since the Cold War under the Obama administration.

The New York Times, citing four current and former U.S. officials, reported on Tuesday that phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Trump's campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.

"Let's not believe anonymous information," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with reporters, noting that the newspaper's sources were unnamed.

"It's a newspaper report which is not based on any facts."

In a rare comment to media, Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service told the TASS news agency the report consisted of "unsubstantiated media allegations".

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova denied there had been any inappropriate contact between Trump representatives and Russian state agencies during the campaign.

She told a daily news briefing the latest allegations looked like part of a domestic U.S. political tussle that Russian officials have suggested is designed to damage the chances for better U.S.-Russia ties.

"We're not surprised by anything anymore. This information once again proves that a very deep political game is playing out within the United States," said Zakharova.

The prospect of a swift rapprochement between Russia and the United has lessened since Trump's inauguration due to scandals including the resignation on Monday of national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was seen in Moscow as a leading advocate of softer U.S. policy towards Russia.

(Writing by Andrew Osborn and Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Gareth Jones)