White House Confirms Trump-Putin Phone Call

Nellie Chapman
March 21, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday called Russian President Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on his re-election and said they would likely meet soon as relations between the two countries grow more strained over allegations of Russian meddling in the U.S. electoral system.

"The leaders spoke in favour of developing practical cooperation in different spheres, including on questions of how to ensure strategic stability and fight global terrorism", the Kremlin said in a statement.

It said they had also discussed Syria, Ukraine and North Korea, and spoken about strengthening economic links between the two countries.

Outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said it's "almost beyond comprehension" why a state actor would deploy such a risky substance in a public place in a foreign country where others could be exposed.

The Trump administration last week announced tough economic sanctions on several Russians indicted last month by special counsel Robert Mueller in response to Moscow's attempts to interfere in the 2016 US election.

Both presidents expressed their satisfaction with a certain decrease of tensions on the Korean peninsula, the Kremlin's press service said.

Sanders said during Tuesday's briefing that Trump and Putin did not discuss Russia's alleged election meddling in the 2016 USA presidential election or the poisoning of former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal in the United Kingdom.

The ties between Moscow and Washington began to deteriorate in 2014, in the wake of the crisis in Ukraine and subsequent Crimea's reunification with Russian Federation, after which the United States and its allies imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russian Federation.

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"A special attention was given to considering the issue of a possible bilateral summit, " the Kremlin statement said.

Later, at her daily press briefing, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders defended the president's handling of the call.

Putin received calls from a number of other foreign leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Relations between the two countries instead have remained tense amid the allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 USA presidential election and the investigations of whether there was collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia.

The Kremlin spokesman says it's no big deal that U.S. President Donald Trump didn't congratulate Vladimir Putin on his re-election as president.

Sanders told reporters that Trump also didn't raise the issues of election meddling or Russia's allegedly tainted voting process. Peskov said maybe Trump's schedule didn't allow it and suggested he might call later. Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, said it was "clear" the Russian government was looking for vulnerabilities in the US election system, although there is no evidence any votes were changed.

President Barack Obama called the Russian leader in 2012 and, according to a White House readout, congratulated him on winning his last reelection campaign.

The scale of victory appears to be a marked increase in his share of the vote from 2012, when he won by 64%.

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