Putin says EU should lift sanctions

Mikhail Klimentyev  Presidential press-service  TASS

Putin added that he hoped US President Donald Trump followed through on his "wise and mature decision" to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12 in Singapore.

Although relations between Russia and the European Union have been strained since its 2014 annexation of Crimea, its support of separatists in eastern Ukraine and, most recently, over the poisoning of Russian double-agent Sergei Skripal in England, Austria has maintained friendly ties to Moscow.

The event has in the past lasted over four hours, with the president fielding questions on subjects as varied as his love life, teachers' salaries, Crimea and provincial roads.

As anticipated, domestic issues dominated the session.

"I fully agree with him - however, to prevent a possible arms [race], we should think about it, we should do something about it, give corresponding instructions to our Foreign Ministry and the US State Department", Putin added. "We have started on the trajectory towards robust economic growth in Russian Federation". Yulia Skripal has said since the incident she wants to return to Russian Federation at some point in the future.

In the ORF interview Monday, Putin dismissed claims that the Russian leadership is seeking to maintain links with nationalist parties in Europe in a bid to sow division on the continent.

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Putin, who has ruled Russian Federation since 2000, was re-elected for his fourth term in office in March and, barring changes to the Constitution, will not be able to run again in 2024.

Later, Putin ordered a partial withdrawal of Russian troops from the war-torn Mideast country.

Putin and his aides say it is an indispensable tool to gauge public sentiment and learn about people's real problems.

More: Putin complains that probe around Trump hurting U.S. "But now we are seeing that this is happening".

What about the USA trade policies?

Russia's very real conflicts also figured prominently.

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He will attend a business conference with envoys from both countries.

Putin also denied the accusations against Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, one of the Russians indicted by Mueller who has been accused of orchestrating the so-called "troll farm" that was used to influence American politics in 2016.

"Our soldiers are there in order to secure Russia's interests in this critically important part of the world, which is so near to us". Putin emphasized the chance for a fresh start in relations between Russian Federation and the European Union, stating that ongoing sanctions are, "harmful to everyone - those who initiated them and those who are targeted by them".

Putin and Trump spoke briefly at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vietnam last November, and had two encounters during the G-20 summit in Germany last July. On several occasions, Putin noted several topics had been raised in past call-in programs. For the first time, a live studio audience was jettisoned in favor of video and phone appeals fielded by young pro-Kremlin "volunteers".

Debate has long simmered over just how choreographed the Direct Line truly is.

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