Russia has denied recent accusations by NATO that Moscow had been backing the Taliban militant group.

Russia has denounced as "idle gossip" recent accusations by NATO's top commander in Afghanistan that Moscow had been backing and providing weapons to the Taliban militant group.

The Russian embassy in Kabul issued a statement on Sunday, saying: "Once again, we insist that such statements are absolutely baseless and appeal to officials not to talk nonsense".

NATO's top commander in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, claimed in a BBC interview, that Russia was acting to undermine US efforts in Afghanistan, and providing the militants with financial support and even weapons.

Nicholson claimed: "We've had weapons brought to this headquarters and given to us by Afghan leaders and said this was given by the Russians to the Taliban".

US commanders, including Nicholson, have accused Russia over the past year of supplying weapons to the Taliban, without making evidence public.

Russia has repeatedly denied the accusation, rejecting any notion of aid to the Taliban.

Moscow has said its limited contacts with the militants are aimed at bringing the group to the negotiating table.

Taliban militants were removed from power following the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan, but they have stepped up their activities in recent months, attempting to overrun several regions. 

Many regions of Afghanistan remain plagued by militancy, despite the presence of foreign military forces.