President Donald Trump has called Russian President Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on his electoral victory two days ago.
Donald Trump said they would meet in the “not too distant future” to discuss limiting a growing arms race, Ukraine and Syria.
Vladimir Putin was re-elected by a landslide, with 76.68% of the vote, for a fourth six-year term.
There was no strong challenger, with the main opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, barred from the race.
According to European observers, the poll was conducted efficiently, but there was a lack of genuine choice.
President Trump said the arms race between the US and Russia was “getting out of control… but we will never allow anybody to have anything close to what we have”.
According to the Washington Post, citing officials it said were familiar with the matter, the call was made despite warnings from the president’s security advisers, who provided a briefing which included a section that read “DO NOT CONGRATULATE”.
During the call, President Trump did not mention the issue that has sparked growing Western tensions with Russia – the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the UK.
The UK government blamed the nerve agent attack on Moscow, which denies any involvement.
The Kremlin said the conversation between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin was “constructive and business-like”, adding that Russia hoped to “overcome problems” that had arisen between the two nations.
Senator John McCain criticized President Trump over the call, saying in a statement: “An American president does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections. And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country’s future, including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin’s regime.”
On March 20, EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker also wrote a letter of congratulations to Vladimir Putin, pledging to “always be a partner” in improving security co-operation with the Kremlin.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was among the first Western leaders to “warmly congratulate” the Russian leader on March 19 – a day after his re-election – stressing the need to continue dialogue “to address important bilateral and international challenges and find viable solutions”.
French President Emmanuel Macron wished Vladimir Putin success in “modernizing Russia”, but urged Moscow to shed light on the “unacceptable” attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal in the UK.