President Donald Trump and Russia's Vladimir Putin arrived in Helsinki for much-anticipated talks on Monday, shortly after Trump had blamed “U.S. foolishness” for souring relations between Washington and Moscow.
Trump and Putin are scheduled to meet at the presidential palace for a direct meeting with only their interpreters present, followed by a working lunch accompanied by advisers. The global leaders are then expected to host a joint press conference later in the day.
In his opening remarks to the media before a closed-door meeting with Putin, Trump said that getting along with Russia would be a "good thing, not a bad thing."
He had said earlier that previous U.S. administrations — and not Moscow — were to blame for a steep decline in U.S.-Russia relations in recent years.
“Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!” Trump said via Twitter on Monday morning.
The official Twitter account of the Russian foreign ministry liked the tweet, shortly before posting a response saying: "We agree."
The U.S. president’s comments appeared to show just how much domestic political pressure he is under while meeting with his Russian counterpart in the Finnish capital.
Some U.S. lawmakers had called on Trump to consider scrapping the summit altogether after 12 Russians were charged with hacking on Friday.
The defendants, all of whom are Russian intelligence officers, were accused of launching cyber attacks on the Democratic presidential campaign in 2016. Russia has denied any collusion took place.