The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin is prepared to reiterate to U.S. President Donald Trump that Moscow did not meddle in the 2016 U.S. elections if Trump raises the issue during their upcoming summit.
The White House and Kremlin simultaneously announced on June 28 that Trump and Putin will meet on July 16 in Helsinki, and that they would discuss a "wide range" of issues, including bilateral relations.
"If [the matter of election interference] is to be raised by the U.S. president, then the Russian president will repeat that Russia could not and did not have anything to do with this situation, around which such insinuations have been spawned," spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on June 29.
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Putin ordered a concerted hacking-and-propaganda campaign aimed at undermining faith in the U.S. electoral process, denigrating Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton, and improving Trump's chances of winning.
Trump has consistently denied his team colluded with Russia to influence the election and has called congressional and Justice Department investigations into the matter a "witch hunt."
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told lawmakers on June 28 that he was sure Trump would raise the allegations of Russian interference in U.S. and other Western elections when the two meet in Helsinki.
However, Trump later that day appeared to again play down any suggestion of Russian wrongdoing -- writing on Twitter that "Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!"
Peskov said he also expected the war in Syria to be discussed. The conflict, which began with a crackdown on antigovernment protesters in 2011, has killed more than a half a million people and displaced millions.
Russia supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while the United States has backed rebels fighting the Syrian government.
"There's no doubt about the fact that Syria will be discussed in depth," Peskov said. "A thoroughly exhaustive discussion awaits."
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was quoted by Russian state-run RIA Novosti news agency as cautioning against the use of phrases like “breakthroughs" about the summit.
"I suggest taking quite a pragmatic and realistic view of these meetings," she said.