Russian President Vladimir Putin is ready to hold a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump despite the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats from the United States in response to the poisoning of a former spy in Britain, Putin's spokesman says.
"The Russian side remains open, of course," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in response to a question on March 28. He said that it "all depends on our American colleagues."
"Putin is ready and the Russian side is ready to develop mutually beneficial and mutually trusting relations with all countries, including the United States, to the extent that our opponents or partners are ready for this," Peskov said.
He said that in the wake of the White House announcement of the expulsions, the Kremlin has "no information" about whether Trump is prepared to meet with Putin.
The United States is among nearly 30 countries that ordered Russian diplomats out in response to the March 4 poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury with a nerve toxin.
Britain and other Western countries have blamed Russia, which denies involvement and has called on London to present more evidence.
Meanwhile, Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May in a phone call on March 28 discussed the need to “dismantle” spying networks and prevent other illegal activities by Russia in their two countries, the White House said in a statement.
"Both leaders agreed on the importance of dismantling Russia's spy networks in the United Kingdom and the United States to curtail Russian clandestine activities and prevent future chemical weapons attacks on either country's soil," it said.
After a March 20 phone call in which he congratulated Putin on his reelection, Trump told reporters that he hoped the two could meet in the "not-too-distant future" to discuss several crises around the world.
The Kremlin said in a statement following the call that "special attention was paid to working out the issue of holding a possible summit meeting."
Many of the diplomats who have been ordered out of Western countries are alleged to have been spying.
Russia responded to Britain's expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats earlier in March by ordering the same number of British diplomats to leave Russia, but has not yet taken visible measures in response to the U.S. and other expulsions.
Peskov sought to play down the coordinated expulsions by Western countries and NATO of some 150 diplomats, which dwarfed similar measures taken during Cold War espionage disputes.
"Twenty or 30 countries are just a part of the global community and it is much bigger and varied and includes many more countries," Peskov said.