US senators on rare visit to Moscow ahead of Putin-Trump summit

US ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman and US Senator Richard Shelby get into a car following a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia July 3, 2018. (REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin)
Updated 03 July 2018
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US senators on rare visit to Moscow ahead of Putin-Trump summit

  • The US delegation is in Russia until Thursday, ahead of the summit planned in Helsinki on July 16
  • Republican US senators met with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on a rare visit to Moscow

MOSCOW: Republican US senators met with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on a rare visit to Moscow Tuesday ahead of a summit between the countries’ presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.
The US delegation is in Russia until Thursday, ahead of the summit planned in Helsinki on July 16, at a time of high tension between Russia and the West.
“We recognize that the world is better off, I believe, if Russia and the US have fewer tensions, get along a little better, maybe put aside some differences,” Senator Richard Shelby said during Tuesday’s meeting with Lavrov at the Russian foreign ministry.
“We are competitors, but we don’t necessarily need to be adversaries,” said Shelby, a Republican senator from Alabama, in televised comments.
“We’re hoping that coming out of the Putin-Trump meeting in Helsinki, it will be the beginning, maybe, of a new day,” Shelby added. “We will have to wait and see.”
Lavrov, speaking in English, said he hoped that the US senators’ visit “will symbolize the resumption of relations between the (US and Russian) parliaments.”
“I think the resumption of dialogue is going to be a very timely event on the eve of the forthcoming meeting between the two presidents,” he added.
Lavrov also congratulated the delegation on the forthcoming US Independence Day and wished them well on hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Russia is currently hosting this year’s tournament.
The senators then met with representatives of the Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament.
“I am here not to accuse Russia of anything, I am here to try to find ways to improve relations,” Shelby told Russian lawmakers, according to a transcript published on the Duma website.
For his part, Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin welcomed the delegation and thanked US ambassador in Russia Jon Huntsman for the “initiative of inter-parliamentary dialogue.”
The US senators are due to meet with the upper house of the Russian parliament later Tuesday.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there was no plan for the senators to meet Putin.
He said the Kremlin was “very satisfied” that the senators were visiting Russia.
“We are convinced that inter-parliamentary links are one of the most important factors in bilateral ties,” he told reporters.
Moscow and Washington announced the summit date after Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton met with Putin in Moscow last week.
The head-to-head between the US and Russian leaders will follow a delicate NATO summit in Brussels.
Trump has expressed scorn for the alliance and is expected to upbraid European NATO members for not spending enough on their own defense.


Putin slams ‘ungrounded accusations’ after UK poisonings

Updated 8 min 6 sec ago
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Putin slams ‘ungrounded accusations’ after UK poisonings

WASHINGTON: President Vladimir Putin accused Britain Monday of making baseless allegations against Russia after a former Soviet spy was among four people found poisoned by a nerve agent in southern England.
Asked in a Fox News interview about the British government’s assertion that Moscow was behind the Novichok attack on the former spy Sergei Skripal, Putin said London had not provided any evidence to back up their claim.
“We would like to get documentary evidence but nobody gives it to us,” Putin, speaking through a translator, told the US network after a summit with President Donald Trump in Finland.
“It’s the same thing with the accusations of meddling in the election process in America,” he added in reference to claims that Russia interfered in the 2016 US presidential election which was won by Trump.
Putin suggested the case could be driven by domestic issues in Britain, saying “Nobody wants to look into these.”
“We just see the ungrounded accusations — why is it done this way? Why should our relationship be made worse by this?“
Former Russian double agent Skripal and his daughter Yulia collapsed in Salisbury on March 4 after being exposed to Novichok. Both have since recovered.
Then on June 30 Charlie Rowley and his partner Dawn Sturgess fell ill not far from the Skripal attack after being exposed to the same nerve agent. Sturgess died on July 8.
Russia has strongly denied poisoning the Skripals, sparking a diplomatic row that has led to tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions between Britain and its allies and Russia.
Police have not been able to establish whether the Novichok that Rowley and Sturgess were exposed to was from the same batch used against the Skripals but have said that a possible connection is their main line of inquiry.
Rowley remains seriously ill in hospital but his brother has told the BBC that the 45-year-old fell ill after picking up a discarded perfume bottle.
“What kind of bottle? What is the chemical formula? Who’s got it?” Putin said in his interview.