Trump calls Putin to congratulate him on election victory and says they will meet in the ‘not too distant future’

Kremlin says leaders did not discuss nerve agent attack on Russian double agent in Salisbury

Emily Shugerman
New York
Tuesday 20 March 2018 16:28 GMT
Donad Trump says he has congratulated Vladimir Putin for Russia election victory

Donald Trump has called Russian President Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on his election victory, but did not discuss the recent nerve-agent attack in Britain.

A press release from Mr Putin’s office said the two leaders had talked on Tuesday “at the initiative of the American side”. The two did not discuss the poisoning of a Russian double agent in Salisbury, which British officials have said was “highly likely” tied to the Kremlin, Mr Putin’s press secretary told Interfax. The White House confirmed that the poisoning was not discussed.

Mr Trump confirmed that the two had spoken, telling reporters at a press conference he planned to meet with Mr Putin in the “not too distant future” to talk about the global arms race and tensions with North Korea. He did not mention the attack.

Mr Putin’s office said he and Mr Trump had discussed everything from terrorism to energy development. The call was “constructive, businesslike and focused on overcoming the accumulated problems in Russian-American relations”, the Kremlin said in a statement.

The call came shortly after Prime Minister Theresa May chastised Mr Putin over the poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal. The Russian President has denied any involvement in the attack, which left Mr Skripal and his daughter in a critical condition. But Ms May said on Monday there was “no other conclusion but the Russia state is culpable for what happened on the streets of Salisbury”.

The Prime Minister expelled 23 Russian diplomats as a result.

Mr Trump has been more reserved in his comments, saying only that it “sounds like” Russia was behind the attack.

“As soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be,” he told reporters last week.

The US President has been on the defensive about his relationship with Mr Putin, who he previously called “a strong leader”. The US Justice Department and Senate Intelligence Committee are probing allegations that Mr Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 election – which Mr Trump has repeatedly called a “witch hunt”.

Body language expert says Vladimir Putin’s statement denying responsibility for Salisbury poisoning looks ‘truthful’

Mr Trump and Mr Putin’s call came on the same day the Senate Intelligence Committee released its report on Russian targeting of the US election infrastructure. The committee deemed the US infrastructure as “fundamentally resilient”, but urged states to take “rapid” steps to secure their voting systems.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has already charged 13 Russian nationals with intervening in the 2016 election to “sow discord”.

Russia held its presidential election on Sunday. Mr Putin won by a landslide, after his main election opponent was barred from running. He is now set to assumed his fourth six-year term as the most powerful politician in the country.

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