WASHINGTON: Hillary Clinton's campaign has accused Donald Trump of "troubling connections" to the Kremlin after Paul Manafort, his key aide, was forced to deny allegations that he received millions of dollars in cash payments from pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine.
Handwritten entries in a secret ledger unearthed by Ukraine's National Anti-Corruption Bureau showed Viktor Yanukovych, the country's pro-Russian former president, earmarked $12.7 million (pounds 9.8 million) for Mr Manafort between 2007 and 2012, The New York Times reported. Mr Manafort was working for Mr Yanukovych's party as a political consultant.
Investigators are looking into whether it was part of an illegal, off the-books scheme.
Mr Manafort, the Republican presidential nominee's campaign manager, vehemently denied any wrongdoing, saying he had never received the payments.? ?
The furore overshadowed a major speech Mr Trump was making on how he would defeat Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
It was another setback for Mr Trump as the billionaire, trailing in polls, attempted to present himself as a candidate with serious policies.
Addressing the allegations, made by The New York Times, Mr Manafort said: "The simplest answer is the truth - I am a campaign professional. The suggestion that I accepted cash payments is unfounded, silly and nonsensical. I have never received a single off-the-books cash payment, nor have I ever done work for the governments of Ukraine or Russia.
"Further, all of the political payments directed to me were for my entire political team - campaign staff, local and international, polling and research, election integrity, and television advertising."
Mr Manafort said his work in Ukraine ended in October 2014 and "every government official interviewed states I have done nothing wrong".
Mr Manafort accused The New York Times of pursuing a "political agenda" against him.
But Robby Mook, Mrs Clinton's campaign manager, said: "We have learned of more troubling connections between Donald Trump's team and pro-Kremlin elements in Ukraine.
"Given the pro-Putin policy stances adopted by Donald Trump, and the recent Russian government hacking of Democratic Party records, Donald Trump has a responsibility to disclose the ties of Paul Manafort, and all other campaign employees and advisers, to Russian or pro-Kremlin entities."
The Ukrainian Anti-Corruption Bureau said it could not confirm if Mr Manafort ever received the $12.7 million referred to in the ledger as it could not decipher a signature next to it.
Mr Manafort, whose other clients have included Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, had a professional relationship with Mr Yanukovych going back to 2004.
An image makeover partly masterminded by Mr Manafort culminated in Mr Yanukovych winning the presidential election in 2010.
Mr Yanukovych was ousted by a revolution in February 2014 and fled to Russia, where he continues to live.