The Russian ambassador who met with Donald Trump campaign officials also met with advisers to the Clinton campaign, the Kremlin said on Sunday (12 March). A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said the ambassador met with "people working in think tanks advising Hillary or advising people working for Hillary."

In an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria, Dmitry Peskov said: "Well, if you look at some people connected with Hillary Clinton during her campaign, you would probably see that he had lots of meetings of that kind. There are lots of specialists in politology, people working in think tanks advising Hillary or advising people working for Hillary."

According to Peskov, it was the responsibility of Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to meet with officials in both parties to discuss "bilateral relations," The Hill reported. The Kremlin spokesman also defended the meetings and claimed they were not an attempt to interfere in the presidential election.

He said: "He was talking about bilateral relations, about what is going on in the United States, so we have a better understanding in Moscow. This is what happens all around the world."

"But there were no meetings about elections — electoral process ... So it you look at it with intention to demonise Russia, you would probably say that, yes, he was trying to interfere in Hillary's activities. But it would be nonsense, because this is not true," Peskov continued.

Peskov said that Putin never publicly voiced his support for Trump but acknowledged he preferred the Republican nominee over Clinton. "You would probably recall that President Putin, during [the] election campaign, had never answered directly a question about his candidate of his support. He kept saying that he will respect a choice of American people," he said.

"If you ask him whether he had mentioned the then-candidate Donald Trump, I will answer, yes, he had," Peskov said. The spokesmen suggested that Putin found Clinton hostile towards Russia but believed Trump was open to thawing relations between the two countries.

"The candidate Hillary Clinton was quite negative about our country in her attitude and in her programme, declaring Russia being nearly the main evil in the world and the main threat for the United States," he said. "And to the contrary, the other candidate, Donald Trump, was saying that, 'Yes, we disagree with the Russians ... in lots of issues, but we have to talk to them in order to try to find some understanding.'"

Peskov then asked Zakaria which candidate made better sense for Russia.

The Trump administration has been plagued with suggestions that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win. Since the election, it has been confirmed that several people involved in the campaign and the transition spoke to Russian officials.

Trump's national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was ultimately fired for speaking to Russian officials during the transition and Attorney General Jeff Sessions has come under fire for speaking to Ambassador Kislyak and not divulging that information during his confirmation hearing.