Russia has denied reports that it offered rewards from Taliban-linked militants for killing US troops in Afghanistan.
Citing US officials, The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal reported that a Russian military intelligence unit offered the alleged rewards last year.
The same unit has been linked to assassination attempts in Europe.
The Russian embassy in the United States said the claims had prompted threats to diplomats.
The Taliban also denied having made any deal with Russian intelligence.
The reports come as the United States tries to negotiate a peace agreement to end the 19-year war in Afghanistan.
Unidentified officials cited by the New York Times said that US intelligence agencies had concluded months ago that a unit of Russia’s military intelligence agency GRU had attempted to destabilize its adversaries by offering covert rewards for successful attacks on coalition forces.
The Islamist militants, or armed criminal elements closely associated with them, are believed to have raised some money, the newspaper said.
According to the Times, President Donald Trump received information about the reports in March. Trump denied being informed, and wrote on Twitter Sunday that neither he nor the vice president had been told “about the so-called attacks by the Russians on our troops in Afghanistan.”
In a series of Twitter posts, the Russian embassy in the United States accused the newspaper of promoting false news.
Twenty American soldiers died in Afghanistan in 2019, but the New York Times said it was unclear what deaths were under suspicion.
Officials quoted by the New York Times said the White House National Security Council had considered how to respond, including imposing a series of increasing sanctions against Russia.
The GRU unit allegedly involved has also been linked to the attempted assassination of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with a nerve agent in Salisbury, England, in March 2018.
A Taliban spokesman also called the allegations unfounded.
“Our killings and targeted killings continued in previous years, and we did it with our own resources,” Zabihullah Mujahid told the New York Times.
He added that the Taliban had stopped attacking US and NATO forces after they agreed in February to gradually withdraw troops and lift sanctions. In return, the Taliban said they would not allow extremist groups to operate in areas they control.