Moscow’s version vaguely stated that Trump and Putin “discussed a range of issues of mutual interest” along with continued cooperation combating terrorism. Deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley’s statement on Monday said, “President Vladimir Putin of Russia called President Donald J. Trump to thank him for information the United States provided that helped foil a potential holiday terrorist attack in Russia.”
Russia’s Federal Security Service, the country’s principal intelligence agency, detained two Russian nationals on Dec. 27 “on the basis of information provided earlier by the American partners,” the agency’s spokesman told Tass, Russia’s state news agency. They were charged with planning a terrorist attack that allegedly was to occur during the New Year’s holiday in St. Petersburg, at the Kazan Cathedral in the center of the city and at a shopping center near the Moskovsky Rail Terminal.
New Year’s is a festive time for Russians, with many people off work until Jan. 9.
Russian news agency Interfax reported that the Federal Security Service distributed a video showing one of the detained men allegedly swearing an oath to the Islamic State.
Relations are at a low between Russia and the United States’ intelligence agencies after the latter accused Moscow of interfering in the 2016 presidential election. But for counterterrorism matters, they’re on the same side.
The White House readout of the call also referred to Trump and Putin discussing “the state of relations between the United States and Russia and future efforts to support effective arms control,” a possible reference to the New START arms treaty between the countries, which expires in February 2021.
Putin has been eager to extend it, saying at his end-of-year news conference earlier this month that without a New START extension, “There is nothing to curb an arms race, and that, in my opinion, is bad.”
The Kremlin then announced Monday that Putin sent holiday greetings to Trump, along with a long list of other current and former world leaders, including President George W. Bush. Putin’s “Christmas and New Year’s message” to Trump “noted that Russia and the U.S. were historically responsible for ensuring global security and stability, and that Moscow speaks in favor of normalizing bilateral relations and establishing an equal dialogue based on the mutual respect of interests,” the Kremlin said.
In that message, Putin again extended an invitation for Trump to attend Russia’s Victory Day festivities, an annual May 9 military parade in Moscow’s Red Square that commemorates the Soviet Union’s World War II triumph over Nazi Germany. Trump said last month he’s considering it.