Kremlin confirms Putin and Trump may speak over phone for first time

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 January, 2017, 3:11pm
UPDATED : Friday, 27 January, 2017, 3:11pm

Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump are expected to talk by telephone this Saturday, the Kremlin said, their first conversation since Trump took office.

The phone call will be a crucial first step towards what the Kremlin and the White House hope will be a thaw in relations that were fraught under the previous US administration.

Their conversation will also be subject to close scrutiny from Trump’s critics after US intelligence agencies alleged that Russian security services tried to influence the US presidential election in Trump’s favour.

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, asked by Russian news agencies if the phone call could take place on Saturday, replied: “Yes,” but gave no further details.

During the US election campaign, Putin and Trump praised each other’s personal qualities and said they were hopeful they could reset relations.

Trump has raised the possibility of reviewing sanctions that were imposed on Russia after Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014 and helped separatist rebels fighting government forces in the east of Ukraine.

On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov acknowledged that “time and serious work will be needed to repair the heavy damage inflicted to Russia-US cooperation under Barack Obama.”

“We have no illusions that there will be a new reset with the US, we don’t have any naive expectations,” Lavrov said in parliament. “We know that Trump is considered a master of the deal but Vladimir Putin knows how to make deals, too, in the interests of Russia.”

“Reset” was the term that Obama’s administration coined in 2009 to describe a drive for repairing ties with Russia. After a brief period of warmer ties, tensions flared up again and ties eventually plunged to post-Cold War lows over the Ukrainian crisis, the war in Syria and allegations of Russian meddling in the US elections.

Trump’s victory has heartened Russian political elites, who have greeted his promises to mend ties with Moscow. The Kremlin has been careful, however, warning that rebuilding ravaged ties will take time.

Lavrov said he hope that, unlike the Obama administration, Trump would refrain from “meddling into affairs of other countries.”

Additional reporting by Associated Press