US President Donald Trump and the Russian President Vladimir Putin are now at the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan.
The presidents sat together for the bilateral meeting, which started with President Trump jokingly saying to President Putin: “Don’t meddle in the election.”
Former US Special Counsel Robert Mueller led an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US Presidential election and found that Russia tried to do it. It is worth mentioning that the previous time Trump met with Putin in Helsinki in 2018, the question of Russian interference was also raised at the press conference.
When asked whether Russia would consider extraditing its officials indicted by US Grand Jury for meddling in the election, President Putin suggested to use the treaty “on mutual assistance on criminal cases” between the US and Russia, that dates back to 1999. “The appropriate commission headed by Special Attorney Mueller, he can use this treaty as a solid foundation and send a formal, official request to us so that we could interrogate, hold questioning of these individuals who he believes are privy to some crimes,” said Putin. “Moreover, we can meet you halfway. We can make another step. We can actually permit representatives of the United States, including the members of this very commission headed by Mr. Mueller, we can let them into the country. They can be present at questioning,” he added.
Instead, President Putin suggested the US to let Russia question the officials and individuals that had “something to do with illegal actions” in Russia. The case brought up by the president was infamous case of William Browder and Hermitage Capital Management. “Business associates of Mr. Browder have earned over $1.5 billion in Russia. They never paid any taxes. Neither in Russia nor in the United States. Yet, the money escapes the country. They were transferred to the United States,” Putin said.
In Russia Mr. Browder was tried in absentia in 2013 and sentenced to 9 years in prison for tax evasion. There is a Verdict sentencing Browder and exposing his fraudulent activities in Russia, which proves that companies founded by Hermitage Fund and Mr. Browder, being a general director of those companies and being responsible for tax records, took advantage of tax regimes and did not pay taxes.
One may question where the money went and President Putin tried to answer that question as well: “They sent huge amount of money, $400 million as a contribution to the campaign of Hillary Clinton,” he said. ”Well, that’s their personal case. It might have been legal, the contribution itself. But the way the money was earned was illegal. We have solid reason to believe that some intelligence officers, guided these transactions. So we have an interest of questioning them.”
Although the matter was discussed, no steps were taken. What the two Presidents are now discussing behind closed doors is yet unknown, as the agenda of the meeting was not worked out and it is now up to the leaders to determine what issues they want to discuss.
Natalia Veselnitskaya – official website