Putin Reveals Trump Discussed Sanctions And Ukraine Crisis During Closed-Door Talks

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he discussed Ukraine and sanctions during his closed-door discussion with President Donald Trump.

Trump insisted that only translators could attend the two-hour talk between the leaders in Helsinki on Monday, so no administration officials had information on what was said.

But Putin later outlined to Russian state television's Channel One what was said. This included talking about Ukraine, where a conflict is raging in the east of the country, and Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

"We talked about Ukraine. There are some new ideas on how to resolve the crisis in the southeast of the country," Putin said. "We agreed to work it out at the highest level. In my opinion, this is a positive element of the movement forward. Perhaps, although I say this tentatively."

Russia's Vladimir Putin gestures during the joint press conference with President Donald Trump in the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16. He later said Ukraine and sanctions were discussed with Trump in their meeting behind closed doors. Lehtikuva/Jussi Nukari via REUTERS

Putin also said that sanctions have meant that the U.S. trade with Russia is worth $12 billion, compared with European Union trade at $100 billion and $57 billion with China.

"This is due to sanctions, including from the American side," Putin said.
"This is something to consider, and we agreed to create some kind of structure, a committee made up of American and Russian business representatives.

"They can come up with how to improve our economic relations, and they might be able to give us some suggestions," Putin told the interviewer, Anton Vernitsky.

In a separate interview the Russian president gave to Fox News, Putin reiterated his stance that Moscow did not interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

"Interference with the domestic affairs of the United States—do you really believe that someone acting from the Russian territory could have influenced the United States and influenced the choice of millions of Americans? This is utterly ridiculous," he said.

Putin also told Fox News anchor Chris Wallace that Russia would respond if Georgia or Ukraine were to join NATO.

"For us, well, it's a direct and immediate threat for our national security…. Moving this NATO infrastructure towards our borders would be a threat.... The reaction would be extremely negative," Putin said.

The one-on-one interview between Wallace and Putin was more combative than the one between Trump and Fox's Sean Hannity, who asked the president softball questions. During that interview, the president repeated his praise of Putin as a "very, very strong" leader.

Trump's performance at the summit was described as "treasonous" by former CIA Director John Brennan. Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona called it "one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory," adding that "it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake."