Putin thanks Trump for anti-terrorism help, Kremlin says

Torrey Clark, Laura Davison and Justin Sink

Russian President Vladimir Putin called U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday to thank him for intelligence that helped prevent terrorist acts as the country prepares to celebrate the New Year’s holidays.

While the Kremlin didn’t provide any details in its statement, the Federal Security Service, or FSB, said it arrested two people in St. Petersburg who were planning attacks during the holidays based on information from the U.S.

“That more than eloquently speaks of the effectiveness,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Monday, referring to a statement from the FSB in response to a question about cooperation with the U.S. He didn’t elaborate.

In this file photo taken on Monday, July 16, 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hand with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the end of the press conference after their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland. Putin called Trump on Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, to thank him for intelligence that helped prevent terrorist acts as the country prepares to celebrate the New Year’s holidays.

The White House said in a statement Monday that Putin called Trump “to thank him for information the United States provided that helped foil a potential holiday terrorist attack in Russia.”

“Both presidents committed to continuing counterterrorism cooperation between the two countries,” the White House said in the statement. “The presidents also discussed the state of relations between the United States and Russia and future efforts to support effective arms control.”

Trump has repeatedly said he wants to negotiate a new nuclear weapons agreement with both Russia and China. Russia has called on the U.S. to renegotiate the 2010 New START treaty that expires in February 2021, while China rejects limits on its smaller arsenal.

Trump withdrew the U.S. from a 1987 treaty banning intermediate-range nuclear weapons after accusing Russia of violating the accord. The Kremlin, which withdrew in response, denied the allegation. Russia recently deployed a new missile called Avangard that Putin has claimed travels at hypersonic speeds, stirring fears of a new arms race with the U.S.

Read more: Putin’s Hypersonic Nuclear Missile Stirs Fears of Arms Race

Despite tensions between the U.S. and Russia over nuclear arms, Russian interference in U.S. elections and the Kremlin’s aggression in Ukraine, Syria and elsewhere, Trump and Putin have nurtured an unusually warm relationship. Putin has recently defended Trump against his impeachment by the House earlier this month.

The former KGB spy denies U.S. accusations that Russia is trying to meddle in U.S. affairs and intervened in the 2016 presidential election to help get Trump elected. Trump has also downplayed findings from U.S. intelligence agencies and said he believes Putin’s denials.

Trump has spoken about his interactions with Putin in glowing terms and has mused about inviting Russia to re-join the Group of Seven economies. Russia was evicted from the group in 2014 after invading and annexing Crimea from Ukraine.

Putin frequently refers to Trump as “Donald” when discussing their relations.

This is the fourth straight year the FSB has announced that it interrupted terrorist attacks planned to disrupt the New Year’s holidays, which last through the first week of January in Russia, The Bell reported in its morning news digest.

Russia has been targeted by terrorist attacks, including Islamic State, and the securities services have reason to be on watch. On Dec. 27, 2017, a bomb exploded at a supermarket in St. Petersburg, though without causing fatalities. In 2013, in the last three days of the year, two suicide bombings in Volgograd killed 34 people. While a blast that tore through an apartment block in Magnitogorsk last year on Dec. 31, killing 39, was officially blamed on a gas explosion, local media has sought to prove it may have been an act of terrorism.

(Updates with White House statement beginning in fourth paragraph)

To contact the reporters on this story: Torrey Clark in Moscow at tclark8@bloomberg.net;Laura Davison in Washington at ldavison4@bloomberg.net;Justin Sink in Washington at jsink1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Torrey Clark at tclark8@bloomberg.net, ;Joe Sobczyk at jsobczyk@bloomberg.net, Jake Rudnitsky

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