Seven anonymous U.S. officials have accused a Russian think tank with links to the Kremlin of drawing up plans to intervene into the 2016 American presidential election.
Three current and four former officials allege the Moscow-based Russian Institute for Strategic Studies produced two documents obtained by U.S. intelligence, Reuters reported.
The institute, headed by retired Russian intelligence officers who are appointed by the office of President Vladimir Putin, circulated a strategic document at the highest levels of the Russian government in June, the sources said.
The document, which was not addressed to anyone, proposed the initiation of a propaganda campaign on social media and Russian-controlled news channels to persuade U.S. voters to elect a president who would be more friendly towards Russia.
The sources who spoke to Reuters refused to confirm how U.S. intelligence came into possession of it.
They said the second document was produced in October and concluded that since Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton appeared likely to win, then it was best for Russia to focus on reporting allegations of voter fraud to discredit the electoral process.
The officials noted that the two documents were central to the determination by President Barack Obama's administration that Russia interfered in the election and targeted the Democratic Party.
Putin has repeatedly denied that Moscow engaged in any disruption during the election.
A spokesman for the government-owned Sputnik news channel, which the anonymous officials accused of spreading pro-Trump propaganda, stated that the allegations were an "absolute pack of lies."
"And by the way, it's not the first pack of lies we're hearing from 'sources in U.S. official circles,'" the spokesperson added.
President Donald Trump dismissed a CIA report in December 2016, which accused hackers with links to Russia of targeting the Democratic National Committee.
"I think it's ridiculous," he said in a Fox News interview on Dec. 11, the BBC reports. "I think it's just another excuse. I don't believe it."
He accused the Democrats of spreading the reports because of their electoral defeat.
"They have no idea if it's Russia or China or somebody sitting in a bed some place," he added.
Meanwhile, a Russian official announced on April 19 that Moscow is beginning an inquiry into whether U.S. media outlets influenced the 2016 Russian parliamentary elections.
"The structures we are discussing are part of a larger American system of pressure on our country," said Leonid Levin, head of the legislative Committee on Information and Communication, according to The Moscow Times. "They are using a variety of instruments in respect to both the Russian electoral process and on our country as a whole."