Trump rejects Putin’s proposal to let Russia interrogate US citizens

US President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting on July 18, 2018, at the White House in Washington, DC. (AFP)
Updated 20 July 2018
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Trump rejects Putin’s proposal to let Russia interrogate US citizens

  • Mueller is investigating possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia
  • Hopefully President Putin will have the 12 identified Russians come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump rejected Thursday a proposal by Vladimir Putin to allow Russian officials to interrogate a former US ambassador and other American citizens, amid outrage across Washington that he would even consider it.
While Trump originally called the idea an “incredible offer,” and continued to weigh it through Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said he has now decided against it.
“It is a proposal that was made in sincerity by President Putin, but President Trump disagrees with it,” Sanders said.
Putin unveiled the proposal in a joint press conference with Trump on Monday following their summit meeting in Helsinki, Finland.
Asked whether he would extradite 12 Russian intelligence agents indicted in the United States last week for hacking Democratic Party computers, he said he could meet the US government “halfway.”
“We can actually permit official representatives of the United States... into the country and they will be present at this questioning” of the 12 inside Russia.
“Then we would expect that the Americans would reciprocate and they would question officials, including the officers of law enforcement and intelligence services of the United States ... who have something to do with illegal actions on the territory of Russia, and we have to request the presence of our law enforcement.”
For Russia, the focus of the quid-pro-quo was questioning former US envoy to Russia Michael McFaul and 11 others in Moscow’s case against billionaire investor and human rights activist William Browder, the driving force behind Magnitsky Act sanctions on Russian officials passed by the US Congress.
“I think that’s an incredible offer,” Trump responded in Helsinki.

McFaul expressed outrage on Wednesday when Sanders said Trump was “going to meet with his team” to consider Putin’s proposal.
But on Thursday Sanders made clear a deal with Putin was not in the cards.
“Hopefully President Putin will have the 12 identified Russians come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt,” said Sanders.
“It’s not going to happen,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed late Thursday.
“There were suggestions, comments, thoughts by President Putin with respect to that inquiry. President Trump was very clear we’re not going to force Americans to go to Russia to be interrogated by the Russians,” he said.
The indictments issued last week by special counsel Robert Mueller allege that the Russian hackers publicly released tens of thousands of stolen Democratic emails and documents using “fictitious online personas.”
Mueller is investigating possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia.
Sanders made the statement just as the US Senate took up a resolution objecting to any move by the Trump administration to make US officials available for questioning by Russian government officials.
In a sharp rebuke to the White House, the resolution passed with unanimous support from both parties, 98-0.
“Let this resolution be a warning to the administration that Congress will not allow this to happen,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.


Vladimir Putin gets lavish welcome on visit to ally Serbia

Updated 17 January 2019
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Vladimir Putin gets lavish welcome on visit to ally Serbia

  • Church bells tolled, guns saluted and people waved Russian and Serbian flags on Putin’s route through the Serbian capital, Belgrade
  • Serbia has maintained close links with traditional Slavic ally Russia despite formally seeking European Union membership

BELGRADE, Serbia: Vladimir Putin received a hero’s welcome in ally Serbia on Thursday as the Russian president attempted to maintain political and economic influence in the Balkans, which is increasingly looking Westward.
Putin’s presidential plane was escorted over Serbian airspace by MiG-29 fighter jets he recently donated to Serbia as he arrived for the one-day visit. Church bells tolled, guns saluted and people waved Russian and Serbian flags on Putin’s route through the Serbian capital, Belgrade.
Serbia has maintained close links with traditional Slavic ally Russia despite formally seeking European Union membership. It has refused to join Western sanctions against Russia over Ukraine and has pledged to stay out of NATO.
Putin has recently stepped up efforts to restore Moscow’s influence in the former communist countries of Eastern Europe.
Putin and his host, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, praised the relationship between the two countries. Putin handed a top Russian honor to Vucic, who gave a puppy of a Serb dog breed to the Russian president.
Vucic thanked Russia for its support for Serbia’s claim over Kosovo, a former province that declared independence in 2008, and added that “however small,” Serbia has been a “reliable partner” to Russia.
Several bilateral agreements were signed, including on the supply of Russian gas and weapons to Serbia.
On the gas, Putin said Russian companies are ready to invest about $1.4 billion into a stretch of a pipeline that would go from Turkey via EU-member Bulgaria to Serbia and then on to Hungary, “but in the end, everything will depend on other countries, including the European Union.”
Putin’s visit come as thousands have been holding weekly demonstrations against Vucic because of what they see as his autocratic rule.
Tens of thousands of Vucic’s right-wing party supporters were bused into the capital on Thursday to gather in front of the St. Sava Orthodox church, which the two presidents visited. They were chanting slogans including “Serbia-Russia, we don’t need the European Union!“
Vucic’s critics say the gathering was staged to suggest that the Serbian leader has many more supporters than opponents, who have been marching the same route since December to demand free elections and media.
Several liberal Serbian rights groups issued a statement on Thursday protesting “glorification of Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime.”
It said that Putin’s visit “indicates that the Serbian rulers are ready to sacrifice human rights and better living standards of citizens because of their servile attitude toward Putin’s regime.”
Russia’s interest in Serbia relates to its strategic position between East and West. Of Serbia’s eight neighbors, five are NATO members and two more are seeking membership; and four are in the EU and two more are working toward accession. Serbia remains Moscow’s only ally in the region.
Unlike NATO, Putin formally does not oppose Serbia’s EU path and analysts believe that this is because he wants a staunch ally — or perhaps a Trojan horse — within the 28-nation bloc.
Putin’s popularity in Serbia is mostly because the Kremlin is supporting Serbia in its rejection of Kosovo’s independence. In contrast, most Western countries have recognized Kosovo’s statehood.