Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will congratulate President Trump on his election, in what the Kremlin says is the first phone call between the two since Trump was inaugurated last weekend. The call is slated for Saturday evening Moscow time — which is eight hours ahead of U.S. Eastern.
In other phone calls on Saturday, Trump will speak with France’s President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer says.
As for the call with Russia, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says it’s too early to say what the two leaders will discuss. But possible topics include the U.S. sanctions that were levied over accusations that the Kremlin backed hackers seeking to tamper with the recent presidential election. And with both Trump and Putin having spoken of a closer U.S.-Russia relationship, a plan for a personal meeting might also be discussed.
“This is the first telephone contact after President Trump took office, so one can hardly expect from such a telephone conversation any substantive contacts on all the issues on the agenda,” Peskov said, according to state-run Tass media. Peskov urged reporters to be patient.
Senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway tells CBS that Trump and Putin will likely talk about common interests and fighting terrorism.
News of the conversation between Trump and Putin comes as reports emerge from Russia that two senior officers of the cyber intelligence unit of the Federal Security Service (the FSB, the successor to the KGB) have been arrested on treason charges, setting off speculation that the moves could be linked to hacking attacks in the U.S., as Radio Free Europe reports.
Those arrests, and this weekend’s phone call, are playing out amid a backdrop that includes “unverified claims that Russia may have compromising material” on Trump, as NPR’s Greg Myre reported earlier this month. Trump has denounced those claims.