Putin lauds Mueller probe, favours restoration of full-scope relations with US

Sochi [Russia]: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday favoured the restoration of “full-scope relations” with the United States during a meeting with the US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo here.

The Russian leader’s comments come as the United States announced its intent to withdraw from the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, citing breaches by Russia as the reason behind the decision.
The US is slated to withdraw from the accord by August this year, warning that the treaty will terminate if “Russia does not return to full and verifiable compliance” with it, according to an official statement.

During the meeting with Pompeo, Putin outlined his recent phone conversation with his US counterpart, Donald Trump, left the impression that the US wanted to restore relations as well.

“As you know, a few days ago I had the pleasure to talk to the US president over the phone, I had an impression that the president was in favor of restoring the Russia-US ties, contacts, jointly resolving the issues of common interest,” Sputnik quoted Putin as saying.

“On our part, we have repeatedly said that we would also like to restore the full-scope relations,” he added.
Pompeo, on the other hand, said that the two countries would hold more extensive conversations on arms control in the “weeks ahead.”

“We’ll have a more extensive set of conversations both on arms control and an opportunity to discuss all broad strategic security issues between our two countries in the weeks ahead,” Pompeo said.

“As for its extension, what we agreed to do is gather teams that will begin to work not only on New START… and its potential extension but on a broader range of arms control issues,” the US official also said.

This comes as US suspended its obligations under the INF treaty, which aimed to curb the arms race between the US and Russia. Moscow, in retaliation, mirrored Washington’s move immediately.

The Russian leader also welcomed the probe undertaken by US Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian collusion in the 2016 Presidential elections in the United States. He said that Mueller conducted an “objective” investigation, which proved no Russian interference in Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign.

“We should give (Mueller) credit. In general, he conducted an objective probe and confirmed the absence of any traces and collusion between Russia and the current administration, which we initially characterised as complete nonsense: there was no interference on our part in the elections in the United States at the state level, and could not be,” Putin stated.

Before meeting with Putin, Pompeo held talks with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Lavrov welcomed talks between the Presidents of the two nations during the upcoming G20 summit, the idea of which was floated by Trump.

“We heard statements by president Trump that he expects to hold a meeting with President Putin, including during the G20 Summit in Osaka. If we receive an official invitation we will respond positively. We talked about that today with Mike Pompeo,” he said.

The Russian minister also said that he handed Pompeo an “unofficial memorandum of sorts” which lists “factual proof” of US interference in Russia’s domestic affairs.

The two sides also spoke on other issues, like North Korea and Venezuela during the meeting.
The two officials also held a joint presser, during which Lavrov said that Russia-US tensions have a negative impact on the “global situation.”

“Russia is interested in normalizing bilateral dialogue with the US and we are convinced that it is quite possible to conduct this dialogue on the basis of mutual respect and consideration of each other’s interests,” Lavrov said.