MOSCOW—The Russian government signaled Friday its openness to a possible second summit between President
and his U.S. counterpart
even as some officials in Moscow remain taken aback by the firestorm that has surrounded the meeting between the two leaders earlier this week.
surprised administration officials and Republican lawmakers this week, announcing that he had invited Mr. Putin to the White House for a summit in Washington in the fall to follow up on their recent meeting in Helsinki.
“Russia was always open,” Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, told reporters. “We are ready for a discussion on that topic,” he said, adding that it was for the Kremlin to ultimately respond to the invitation.
The summit earlier this week was broadly perceived in Moscow as a possible, positive step forward in Russia-U. S. ties, but Russian officials have been surprised by the persistent criticism against Mr.
for his performance.
“We expected a mixed reaction in Washington to the results of the summit, but I myself didn’t expect this harsh rejection of everything that the presidents discussed,”
said at an event in the Russian capital.
For now, he said Moscow’s goal, however, was to achieve progress following the meeting between the two leaders.
“The task is not to multiply summits, the task is to substantively prepare, find shared understandings of solutions and lower tensions and move forward,” Russian agencies quoted him as saying. He also said Russian and U.S. lawmakers would continue traveling between the two countries and said another group of U.S. Congressmen was expected to come to Moscow, though he gave no specific time.
Mr. Trump’s embrace of
even as Washington more broadly denounces the Russian leader as the force behind an alleged campaign by his country to influence the 2016 presidential elections, has sown confusion in the Kremlin, analysts say.
The reaction of Kremlin officials and the prospect of improved relations with the U.S. ranges from cautiously optimistic to skeptical, said Fyodor Lukyanov, head of a Kremlin advisory body.
“Even if he means what he has stated many times about the necessity to get along with
and Russia and normalize relations, we see that his ability to implement this line in Washington is very much limited,” he said.
Mr. Antonov, a former bureaucrat who worked with the defense and foreign ministries in Moscow before his appointment to Washington, said the recent meeting had been focused on conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, U.S.-Russian relations and arms control.
Regarding Ukraine, he said that proposals had been discussed to solve the conflict in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, which broke away from Ukraine, with Russia’s help, in 2014.
Without giving details of the talks, Mr. Antonov said Mr. Putin made “concrete proposals” to end the still-simmering conflict.
During the summit, Mr. Putin proposed holding a referendum to help resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine, and agreed not to disclose the plan publicly so the U.S. president could consider it, according a person close to the Russian foreign ministry. Bloomberg first reported on the possible referendum.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said Friday that Moscow had the right to look at other options to end the conflict if Kiev was unable to uphold it side of an agreement that acts as a road map for peace in eastern Ukraine.
Regular artillery attacks along the front line has made it impossible for either army to pull back, keeping agreements at a standstill, while Kiev and the Russian-backed separatists blame each other for the violence.
Trump’s behavior during the summit, which appeared deferential even to Russian commentators, and the storm of criticism that has swelled around Mr. Trump since his return to Washington has made some Russia watchers say the president may have hurt his own agenda, and the expectation of sanctions from Congress in return for Mr. Trump’s behavior is on the rise.
however, said that the Kremlin was likely not put off by Mr. Trump’s walking back of several of his comments in the days following the summit, as such maneuvering is seen as a “necessity given the extremely hostile attitudes toward Russia.”
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