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Trump, Putin Discuss Nuclear Accord, Venezuela, Mueller Report, Says White House

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U.S. President Donald Trump (left) and Russia's Vladimir Putin shake hands at their Helsinki summit last year.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have addressed a wide range of topics in a telephone conversation on May 3 -- their first contact since the G20 summit in Argentina last year.

The topics included nuclear arms control, Venezuela, Ukraine, North Korea, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on his investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

Trump, speaking to reporters as he met in the Oval Office with Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini, said, "We're talking about a nuclear agreement where we make less and they make less and maybe where we get rid of some of the tremendous firepower that we have right now."

Trump said China during trade talks had "felt very strongly" about joining the United States and Russia in limiting nuclear arms.

Earlier, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the two leaders discussed a potential new multilateral atomic treaty between the United States, Russia, and China or an extension of the current U.S.-Russia strategic nuclear accord.

Russia and the United States both withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty earlier this year, while the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) agreement, signed by former U.S. and Russian presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev in April 2010, will expire in 2021.

China isn't party to either agreement.

Trump also told journalists, "Venezuela was one of the topics [of discussion]."

Russia is backing Venezuela's embattled President Nicolas Maduro, while the United States has thrown its support behind Juan Guaido, who leads the opposition-controlled National Assembly and declared himself interim president in January.

"He [Putin] is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela other than he’d like to see something positive happen for Venezuela, and I feel the same way," Trump said.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said earlier that Trump told Putin "the United States stands with the people of Venezuela" and stressed he wanted to get relief supplies into the country.

Sanders also repeated the U.S. administration's position that "all options continue to be on the table" regarding Venezuela.

"The president is going to do what is required, if necessary," she said.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin said Putin told Trump that any external interference in Venezuela's internal business undermines the prospects of a political end to the crisis.

Sanders said Putin and Trump spoke for about an hour, while Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the phone call, which was held at the initiative of the United States, lasted for almost an hour and a half.

The two leaders also discussed Ukraine. Trump canceled a summit with Putin late last year after Russia seized three Ukrainian Navy ships in November and arrested 24 sailors.

Putin told Trump that the new leadership in Ukraine should take steps to solve the Ukrainian crisis, the Kremlin said.

In two tweets, Trump said that he and Putin had a “very productive talk.

Trump, who has met twice with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, also raised with Putin the issue of getting Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

Sanders said Trump mentioned several times "the need and importance of Russia stepping up and continuing to put pressure on North Korea to denuclearize."

During a summit with Kim in Vladivostok last month, Putin voiced Russian support for gradually trading disarmament in exchange for sanctions relief. Kim has yet to agree to a disarmament deal.

Trump and Putin, who last had an informal discussion at a dinner of world leaders in Buenos Aires on December 1, briefly talked about the Mueller report that concluded Trump did not collude with Russia during his 2016 presidential campaign.

Trump said he did not warn Putin not to meddle in the next U.S. election. "We did not discuss that," Trump said, reiterating that accusations of collusion with Russia were "a total hoax."

The Mueller report said the investigation did not find a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, saying it had not collected sufficient evidence “to establish” or sustain criminal charges.

With reporting by Reuters, thehill.com, AP, and TASS


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