During yesterday’s press conference, following a historic meeting between President Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, many had hoped that Trump would push back on several issues, but he seemingly failed to do so. Except for the allegations that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, one of the topics which many Democrats and Republicans alike hoped Trump would push back on was Putin’s actions in Ukraine. While, Trump didn’t once mention Ukraine or Crimea during the press conference, Putin did mention it twice. The first time was when he said that the US should be more instrumental in nudging Ukraine to end the Minsk accords, and the second time was merely a mention of Russia’s gas transit through Ukraine. Nothing at all was mentioned about their hotly debated annexation of Crimea.
It turns out, however, that when Putin is questioned by Russian journalists, he seems to open up quite a bit more, and in this case, his comments after the press conference to Channel One Russia were quite intriguing. While we did not translate the entire interview, which can be seen below, the Director of the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute, Matthew Rojansky was on CNN last night and he did some of the translation for us.
“Putin described something as ‘a very interesting offer,’” Rojansky told a panel on CNN. “We don’t actually know of what the offer consisted, but it’s very interesting to me that they discussed Ukraine, and Putin said that there is ‘an interesting offer’ there.”
Rojansky then went on to describe how Putin also referred to the fact that he talked to Trump about sanctions, without actually saying the word ‘sanctions’:
“So, when asked whether Putin asked for sanctions relief, Putin, of course, as a matter of Russian pride and also, I think, a negotiating tactic, knowing Trump could hand over sanctions relief, he simply says, ‘No but we talked about the interests of our two business communities in increasing economic ties and how we might do that in the current environment.’ So, that’s code for, ‘Yeah, they talked about how to get around sanctions.’ They actually had it as surprisingly substantive conversation. We heard none of it in the press conference.”
The full Russian interview along with the CNN clip with Rojansky offering a quick translation of key elements of the interview can be found below.