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U.S. and Russian ministries must restore direct links: Russian diplomat

Reuters

MOSCOW (Reuters) - One of Russia's top diplomats said on Monday that government ministries in the United States and Russia should restore direct communications channels with each other as part of a first step to rebuild bilateral ties.

U.S. President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have both said they would like to try to mend U.S.-Russia relations that slid to a post-Cold War low after Moscow's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea.

Sergei Ryabkov, Russia's deputy foreign minister, told the Moscow-based Security Index Journal in an interview published on Monday that restoring inter-ministerial and inter-agency ties between the two countries was now essential.

"A reset in contacts between ministries and agencies in one form or another has long been needed," said Ryabkov, saying contacts had been frozen since 2014.

Ryabkov, in the same interview, said a Russian proposal to discuss cyber security issues at an inter-agency level with the United States was still on the table.

U.S. intelligence agencies accused Moscow of sponsoring computer hackers to try to influence last year's U.S. election in Trump's favor, allegations Russia denies.

Ryabkov said Moscow had many questions on cyber security for U.S. officials, citing hacker attacks on Russian web sites.

He also dismissed the idea of Moscow agreeing to make nuclear arms cuts in exchange for sanctions relief.

Trump, in a newspaper interview last month, floated the possibility that U.S. sanctions on Russia imposed over Crimea could be lifted as part of a deal involving nuclear cuts.

Ryabkov said the idea was "a non-starter."

"We don't discuss the sanctions and won't discuss them," said Ryabkov.

(Reporting by Denis Pinchuk; Editing by Andrew Osborn)