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Trump Aides Deny Plans For Putin Summit In Iceland

  • RFE/RL

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump

Top aides to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump have denied a published report he plans to hold a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Iceland as his first foreign trip in office.

Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a tweet late on January 14 that a Sunday Times of London report that Trump told British officials he is planning a meeting with Putin is "not true -- [the] report is 100% false."

The summit, the Times report said, would be held in Iceland's capital, Reykjavik. Other media outlets, including Bloomberg, also wrote stories about a Trump-Putin meeting in Iceland based on the Times report.

"The story is a fantasy," one Trump aide told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity. Another unnamed Trump official also said the report is untrue, Reuters reported.

Trump -- who will be inaugurated as the 45th U.S. president on January 20 -- has spoken of wanting to improve relations with Russia and has praised Putin's leadership qualities.

He told The Wall Street Journal on January 13 that he will "at least for a period of time" maintain the sanctions against Russia announced this week by President Barack Obama for alleged Russian hacking that U.S. intelligence agencies say interfered in the November 8 presidential election.

“If you get along [with each other] and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody’s doing some really great things?” asked Trump.

Trump has said that because he wants to improve relations with Moscow, he would review the sanctions, although several of his proposed cabinet members said this week that they support continuing the restrictive measures against Russia.

In a move appeared to make it harder for Trump to roll back the sanctions after President Barack Obama leaves office, Obamna extended on January 13 all U.S. sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and its backing of separatists in the eastern part of the country.

Obama said the Russian government and other people and organizations targeted by the sanctions have "undermined democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine" by their "use of force" and thereby "threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity."

Representative John Lewis (file photo)
Representative John Lewis (file photo)

Meanwhile, an announced boycott of Trump's inauguration by members of the U.S. Congress is growing, with at least 18 lawmakers saying they won't attend due to the president-elect's comments about John Lewis (Democrat-Georgia), a veteran member of the House of Representatives and noted civil rights activist.

Lewis began the boycott by saying on January 13 he would skip the inauguration because he doesn't view Trump "as a legitimate president."

"I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected," he added. "And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton."

Trump responded with a tweet saying Lewis, who represents a district that includes the city of Atlanta, "should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart," instead of "complaining about the [presidential] election results."

He added that Lewis's district is "crime infested" and that Lewis is "all talk, talk, talk -- no action or results. Sad!"

With reporting by Reuters and thehill.com
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