Putin on Tuesday told US
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo he came to that conclusion after a phone call with Trump a few days ago.
The Russian president,
speaking ahead of a meeting with Pompeo, also said that his country had
not interfered in US elections.
Earlier, Pompeo met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi in hopes of finding common grounds in strategic issues over Iran, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela.
At a joint news
conference following the meeting, Pompeo urged Russia to end support for President Nicolas Maduro, but his call was flatly rejected by Moscow.
"The time has come for Nicolas Maduro to go, he has brought
nothing but misery to the Venezuelan people, and we hope that Russian support
for Maduro will end," Pompeo said. The US along with about 50 other
countries, backs the opposition movement led by Juan Guaido, who declared
himself interim president in January.
For his part, Lavrov said
Maduro's future should be decided by the Venezuelan people and called US
pressure on him undemocratic.
Speaking on Iran, Russia's
ally, Lavrov said that Russia and the US "have many differences" and
criticized the US decision to unilaterally withdraw from Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)
agreement meant to rein in the country's nuclear programme.
Pompeo said that the US will respond appropriately to any Iranian
attacks on US interests, in an apparent reference to the Iranian military's
threat to shut the strategic strait of Hormuz in the Gulf. The US secretary,
however, added that his country did not "seek war with Iran".
The US recently tightened restrictions on Iran's nuclear programme
by revoking key sanctions waivers, a move staunchly opposed by Moscow, over a
year after Washington withdrew from a landmark deal that curbed Iran's nuclear
programme. It also imposed new sanctions on the country's metal sector.
On the Ukrainian crisis, an issue the sides are also loggerheads,
the Pompeo said the US would not recognize Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea
and would keep in place economic sanctions imposed on Russia over that move.
Pompeo said he asked Moscow to free a group of Ukrainian sailors,
seized by Russia last November, and to work with Ukraine's new president to bring peace to eastern Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Lavrov said that the Kremlin would welcome an official
request by Washington for a meeting between the US and Russian presidents at a
G20 summit scheduled for June.
Pompeo also said he had made it clear to Lavrov that there could
be no repeat of election interference of the kind Washington accuses Moscow of
undertaking in the 2016 United States presidential election.
If Russia interferes in
the 2020 presidential election, "it would put our relationship in an even
worse place," Pompeo said.
Ties between the two countries have been damaged by allegations
that Russia tried to influence the results of the election in favour of Trump,
a claim denied by Moscow.
Pompeo's visit represents the first high-level contact between
Moscow and Washington since US Special Counsel Robert Mueller submitted a report examining the nature of Russia's role in the 2016 election.
His inquiry had cast a pall over US-Russian relations, and Russian
officials had expressed hope that Washington would have more scope to build
friendlier relations with Moscow once it was out of the way.
Before his meeting with Pompeo, Putin praised the report.
"Despite the exotic nature of Mr Mueller's commission, on the
whole he conducted quite an objective investigation and confirmed the absence
of any collusion between the US administration and Russia."
The Mueller report called Russia's efforts to influence the
election "the most recent expression of Moscow’s longstanding desire to
undermine the US-led liberal democratic order, but these activities
demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and
scope of effort compared to previous operations".