US President Donald Trump has come face-to-face with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland
Trump said he hoped for 'extraordinary relationship' with Moscow and praised Russia's hosting of World Cup
The Russian leader denied meddling in the 2016 election but admitted he had wanted Trump to beat Clinton
Trump backed up Putin's denials and contradicted the FBI by saying Russia had no reason to interfere in 2016
In a lighthearted moment Putin gave Trump a ball from the World Cup which he threw to his wife Melania
Trump admitted ties between the two countries had 'never been worse' but said the situation had changed
Putin said the Cold War was over and that the US and Russia now needed to solve problems together
By Julian Robinson and Chris Pleasance and Tim Stickings For Mailonline and Reuters and Ap
Published: 07:14 EDT, 16 July 2018 | Updated: 16:28 EDT, 16 July 2018
Donald Trump has hailed 'direct, open and deeply productive' talks with Vladimir Putin as the pair looked to rebuild ties between the US and Russia today.
The US President, speaking alongside Putin at a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, admitted that the relationship between the two countries 'has never been worse' but said 'that changed as of about four hours ago'.
His Russian counterpart denied meddling in the 2016 presidential election but admitted he had hoped Trump would defeat Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, saying: 'I wanted him to win because he talked about normalising Russian-American relations.'
Trump backed up Putin's denials, saying he thought Russia had no reason to interfere in the election and contradicting his country's own FBI which believes Moscow was responsible for hacking during the campaign.
He said that 'we've all been foolish... we've both made mistakes' and that today's summit at the Finnish Presidential Palace was the beginning of a process of restoring ties.
'It is in the interest of both of our countries to continue our conversation and we have agreed to do so,' Trump said, having earlier shot a wink at the Kremlin strongman ahead of their private talks.
In a lighthearted moment, Putin gave Trump a ball from the 2018 World Cup, to symbolise North America hosting the tournament in 2026, saying: 'Now the ball is in your court'.
Trump, who praised Russia's hosting of the World Cup, said his son would like the gift and threw it into the audience, where his wife Melania caught it.
At the press conference the Russian leader once again denied his country interfered in the 2016 election, saying that Trump brought the matter up during their talks.
U.S. intelligence agencies believe the Kremlin acted to influence the vote and help Trump defeat Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
'I had to repeat that the Russian state never interfered, and does not plan to interfere in internal American electoral process,' Putin said, describing the claims as 'complete nonsense'.
Trump contradicted his own FBI and backed up his Russian counterpart's denials, saying: 'He just said it's not Russia. I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be.'
Putin said Moscow and Washington could jointly conduct criminal investigations into Russian intelligence officials accused of hacking during the campaign.
In what Trump described as an 'incredible offer' Putin said Washington could use a 1999 agreement to request that Russian authorities interrogate the 12 suspects, adding that U.S. officials could ask to be present in such interrogations.
Putin also denied the existence of a supposed 'dossier' rumoured to have compromising material on Trump, while his U.S. counterpart said any such information would have come out a long time ago.
The President came under fire for his comments back home, where Republican Senator Lindsey Graham described the meeting as a 'missed opportunity' and said it would send a message of U.S. weakness.
Senate colleague Jeff Flake said: 'I never thought I would see the day when our American President would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression. This is shameful.'
Trump had said in a CBS interview that he had given no thought to asking Putin to extradite the dozen Russian military intelligence officers indicted last week on charges related to the hacking of Democratic targets.
Extradition is unlikely as the U.S. does not have an extradition treaty with Moscow and can't force the Russians to hand over citizens. Russia's constitution also prohibits turning over citizens to foreign governments.
The Russian Foreign Ministry rejected last week's indictment as part of a 'shameful comedy' staged by those in the U.S. who try to prevent the normalization of Russia-U.S. ties, arguing that it doesn't contain evidence to back the accusations.
Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin say they are exploring ways to protect Israel from conflict raging near its border in Syria.
The two leaders did not commit to any specific actions, but both said that ensuring Israel's security was a priority.
Israel is deeply concerned about Iran's presence in Syria, where Iranian forces and proxies have been fighting on behalf of the Syrian government, which is also supported by Russia.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has appealed to both Trump and Putin to eliminate the Iranian presence, which the Jewish state regards as an existential threat.
Putin also said Russia and the U.S. have agreed to continue detailed discussions on arms control issues.
He said Russia and the U.S. should discuss a possible extension of the 2010 New START nuclear arms reduction treaty and the implementation of the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty.
Putin added that other issues that Russia would like to discuss in the arms control sphere are the U.S. missile defense plans and the weaponization of space.
He praised President Donald Trump for this efforts to resolve nuclear tensions with North Korea.
The Russian President said: 'It's good that the gradual resolution of the problem of the Korean Peninsula has begun.'
He continued, saying: 'In many respects, this became possible due to the fact that President Trump personally got involved in the resolution, building dialogue in the spirt of cooperation, not confrontation.'
Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un in a historic summit in Singapore last month.
Putin said today that the US and Russia needed to solve problems together and that Moscow was ready for intelligence cooperation with America on terrorism and cyber threats.
He also hailed the 'successful' cooperation between Russian and US security services insisting: 'We are in favour of continuing cooperation in the sphere of the fight against terror and ensuring cyber security.'
Agreeing on the need for increased cooperation Trump said: 'If we are going to solve many of the problems facing our world, we will have to find ways to cooperate.'
He said he had discussed a wide range of critical issues for both countries, including the war in Syria, Iran, global terrorism and nuclear arms control.
He said: 'We made the first steps towards a brighter future, grounded on cooperation and peace.'
Earlier, Trump said he hoped for an 'extraordinary relationship' with Moscow before leaning across to shake hands with the Kremlin strongman.
In his opening remarks, Trump praised Russia's hosting of the World Cup. A sombre-looking Putin, who struck a casual pose during Trump's remarks and slouched in his chair with his legs wide and eyes low, added: 'The time has come to talk in a substantive way.'
Trump looked determinedly at the Russian President as the pair shook hands while Putin seemed to be clinging to his chair for support.
The two leaders were seated together in a room adorned by American and Russian flags at the Finnish Presidential Palace, separated by a small table. The meeting started about 45 minutes late following Putin's delayed arrival to Finland.
In his opening remarks, Trump said: 'Most importantly we have a lot of good things to talk about ... we have discussions on everything from trade to military, to missiles, to nuclear, to China, we'll be talking a little bit about China – our mutual friend President Xi.
'I think we have great opportunities together as two countries that frankly we have not been getting along very well for the last number of years.
'I've been here not too long but it is getting close to two years, but I think we will end up having an extraordinary relationship. I've been saying, and I'm sure you've heard, over the years... that getting along with Russia is a good thing not a bad thing.
'I really think the world wants to see us get along. We are the two great nuclear powers. We have 90% of the nuclear – and that's not a good thing it's a bad thing. I think we can hopefully do something about that because it is not a positive force it is a negative force so we'll be talking about that among other things.
He concluded his remarks by saying that he was looking forward to their private talks.
'We all have a lot of questions and hopefully, we will come up with answers most importantly. It is great to be with you,' he said.
But, at least in his public remarks at the outset, he mentioned none of the issues that have lately brought US-Russian relations to the lowest point since the Cold War: Moscow's annexation of territory from Ukraine, its support for Syria's Bashar al-Assad, as well as Western accusations that it poisoned a spy in England and meddled in elections.
Putin, for his part, said he and Trump have maintained regular contact by phone and meeting at international events but 'the time has come to have a thorough discussion on various international problems and sensitive issues.' He added, speaking through a translator: 'There are quite a few of them for us to pay attention to.'
Monday's meeting was closely watched on both sides of the Atlantic, coming days after the U.S. Justice Department indicted 12 Russian military intelligence officers for their role in hacking Democratic entities during the 2016 presidential campaign.
It comes hours after Trump blamed the United States, and not Russian election meddling or its annexation of Crimea, for a low-point in U.S.-Russia relations.
The drama was playing out against a backdrop of fraying Western alliances, a new peak in the Russia investigation and fears that Moscow's aggression may go unchallenged.
'Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse,' Trump tweeted on Monday morning, blaming 'many years of US foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!'
The summit, which was being closely watched by rattled world capitals, was condemned in advance by members of Congress from both parties after the US indictment last week of 12 Russian military intelligence officers accused of hacking Democrats in the 2016 election to help Trump's presidential campaign.
Undeterred, the American president went face-to-face with Putin, the authoritarian leader for whom he has expressed admiration.
Trump was greeted at the palace by Finland's president. The summit was starting later than scheduled because Putin arrived in Helsinki late in another display of the Russian's leader famous lack of punctuality.
Putin denied what he called a 'rumour' that Russia possessed compromising material on Trump dating back to when he was a businessman and visited Moscow.
'I've heard about us allegedly collecting compromising material on him when he came to Moscow. When he came to Moscow I didn't even know he was there. It's hard to imagine more nonsense. Throw this rubbish out of your head.
'I treat President Trump with utmost respect but back then nobody informed me that he was in Moscow. I was an intelligence officer myself and know how these dossiers are put together.'
'If they (the Russian government) had anything (compromising material) on me it would have been out long ago ... It (the allegations) was a disgrace to the FBI, our country, and it was a total witch-hunt.'
The Republican seemed to return the favour by waiting until Putin had arrived at the palace before leaving his hotel. Putin has been late for past meetings with the pope and British Queen, among many others.
Trump and his aides had repeatedly tried to lower expectations about what the summit will achieve.
He told CBS News that he didn't 'expect anything' from Putin, while his national security adviser said the U.S. wasn't looking for any 'concrete deliverables.'
Trump told reporters during a breakfast Monday with Finland's president that he thought the summit would go 'fine.'
In his tweets, Trump continued to undermine the investigation and blamed his predecessor, Barack Obama, for failing to stop Russia's efforts to sway the 2016 election in Trump's favor.
He claimed Obama 'was informed by the FBI about Russian Meddling, he said it couldn't happen, was no big deal, & did NOTHING about it.'
The Obama administration did, in fact, take action, including confronting Putin in person as well as expelling nearly three dozen Russian diplomats the U.S. said were actually intelligence operatives and imposing new sanctions.
While Trump was eager for a made-for-TV moment that will dominate headlines like his sit-down with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last month, the Kremlin's primary mission was simply to have the summit happen.
Putin hoped the meeting, mere hours after he presided over the World Cup final, would help him forge good personal ties with Trump and focus on areas where Moscow and Washington may be able to find common ground, such as Syria.
The two leaders first met one on one in the Finnish presidential palace's opulent Gothic Hall, then continued their discussions with an expanded group of aides and over lunch in the Hall of Mirrors, once the emperor's throne room.
Observers have raised concerns about the leaders being alone during their first meeting, but for a pair of interpreters, meaning there will be no corroborating witnesses to accurately represent what was said during the conversation.
Putin was not due to be shooting for official recognition of Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea or easing of the crippling U.S. sanctions, aware that the U.S. Congress would never allow such action.
But he would welcome a symbolic end to Western protests over Crimea and Moscow's attempts to destabilise elections and traditional Western alliances and norms.
Trump unleashed his own attacks on those very institutions before arriving in Finland.
In an interview with CBS News that aired Sunday, Trump described the European Union, a bloc of nations that includes many of America's closest allies, as a 'foe.'
That attack on the alliance came on the heels of Trump's jarring appearance at a NATO summit in Brussels, where he harshly criticised traditional allies over 'delinquent' defense spending only to later confirm his commitment to the military alliance that has long been a bulwark against Russian aggression.
'NATO is now strong & rich!' Trump wrote in a celebratory tweet Monday morning. During his breakfast, he said NATO had 'never been more together' and said the summit had been 'a little bit tough at the beginning, but it turned out to be love.'
Prior to meeting Putin, who has cracked down on the free press, Trump unleashed fresh attacks on the news media, including from aboard Air Force One as it descended into Helsinki.
'Unfortunately, no matter how well I do at the Summit, if I was given the great city of Moscow as retribution for all of the sins and evils committed by Russia over the years, I would return to criticism that it wasn't good enough - that I should have gotten Saint Petersburg in addition!' Trump tweeted.
'Much of our news media is indeed the enemy of the people and all the Dems know how to do is resist and obstruct!'
'Russia has done nothing to deserve us meeting them in this way,' said Nina Jankowicz, a global fellow at the Wilson Center's Kennan Institute who specializes in Russia, Ukraine and disinformation. For Putin, she added, 'not only is this a PR coup no matter what happens, Trump could say nothing and it would help to legitimise his regime.'
Donald Trump greeted Vladimir Putin with a wink when the pair met for their first one-on-one summit in Helsinki on Monday.
The body language between the two men was frosty as they sat down for the cameras save for one moment where Trump turned to Putin and winked - only to be met with no response from the Russian strongman.
Meanwhile a body language expert told Mail Online that two men appeared like prize-winning fighters read for a bout, showing 'no rapport, affection or even admiration' for each other.
Judi James, an author and body language expert, said: 'This summit between two alpha leaders looked for all the world like a prize fight after both men arrived late.
'Both Trump and Putin chest-puffed as they walked in and both men pulled their jackets around in a classic 'prepping for a fight' gesture.
'Sitting in the ante-room there was no rapport, affection or even admiration between them, especially from Putin who failed to use anything other than darting eye contact and didn't smile even when Trump congratulated him about the World Cup.'
Ms James also picked up on a moment when the two men began gesticulating about who should start speaking first, calling it an 'open power-skirmish'.
While the moment was small, she believes it does not bode well for negotiations because it shows both men are combative an unwilling to step down.
The mix-up over who should speak could have been used as a moment for humour between friends, she noted, but instead only deepened the sense of tension.
She added: 'Trump wore a mouth-clamp expression and a scowl for much of the meeting and sat in his signature 'Trump slump' pose with his legs splayed and his fingers together in a downward steeple power pose.
'He began tapping his fingertips together as soon as the small pre-meeting conference began in a gesture of irritation and Putin replied in kind with several finger fiddle or scratching gestures to suggest matching irritation.
'Putin's partial arm splay and upright pose looked calm but at one point he wound his spare hand round the strut of his chair as though keen to make an exit.'
That hand stayed gripping the side of the chair even as Putin went in for a handshake with Trump, perhaps providing stability during the shake.
Trump is known to use handshaking as an opportunity to assert dominance, often putting people around by their arm or twisting his wrist during the shake.
The body-language message could not have been more different from Trump's pre-summit posturing, in which he said he would like to get along better with Russia and blamed the current state of relations on US 'foolishness'.
By Chris Pleasance for MailOnline