Trump-Putin summit: 5 standout moments from the Helsinki meeting

US President Donald Trump (left) and Russia's President Vladimir Putin shake hands as they meet in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

United States President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin sat down at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki for a highly anticipated summit on Monday (July 16), amid tension over Russia's alleged election meddling and concerns about US commitment to the current international order.

The summit opened with a private meeting between the two leaders, with only interpreters present but no aides.

The meeting and the news conference that followed have been called "magnificent" by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, but back home, even Republican politicians have called it "bizarre" and "shameful".

Here are five moments from the summit that you might have missed:

1. The Waiting Game

The Russian president has developed a reputation for arriving late to meetings and he did not make an exception for Mr Trump. The summit began nearly an hour later than scheduled after Mr Putin arrived late in Finland.

Many world leaders have been made to wait for Putin in the past, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and even Pope Francis.

Mr Trump, who drew criticism for making Queen Elizabeth wait during his visit to Britain last week, then delayed his own arrival at the palace so that Putin ended up arriving first.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Russia's ambassador to Finland Pavel Kuznetsov disembark from an airplane upon arrival at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

2. Putin's new ride

Russian President Vladimir Putin on his way to Presidential Palace, in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

After arriving at Helsinki Airport, Mr Putin was taken to the Presidential Palace in a shiny new Russian-made limousine.

The car, dubbed "Kortezh" (motorcade in Russian), is about 6.7m long, 2m wide and 1.6m tall, slightly larger than the American limousine known as the "Beast" which ferries Mr Trump around.

The Kortezh was built by the Central Scientific Research Automobile and Automotive Engines Institute in Moscow, with an engine developed in collaboration with German automobile manufacturer Porsche.

3. Throwing the US intelligence community under the bus

John Brennan, a former spy chief for the Central Intelligence Agency, called Mr Trump's words "treasonous". PHOTO: REUTERS

At the press conference following their private talks, Mr Trump sided with Mr Putin against his own intelligence agencies on the question of alleged elections meddling.

Mr Trump said: "I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this, I don't see any reason why it would be."

When pressed on the issue, Mr Trump declined to denounce Russian interference in the 2016 election, and diverted attention to Hillary Clinton's campaign and her missing 33,000 e-mails instead.

He added: "President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today."

John Brennan, a former spy chief for the Central Intelligence Agency, later called Mr Trump's words "treasonous".

SPH Brightcove Video
Trump questioned why Barack Obama had not acted on claims of Russian meddling if the FBI had informed the then president ahead of the 2016 election.

4. Trump blames 'US foolishness' for strained US-Russia ties

SPH Brightcove Video
US President Donald Trump emerged from a meeting with Vladimir Putin on Monday saying he saw no reason to believe Russia had hacked the 2016 US presidential election, and the Russian leader “was extremely strong and powerful” in denying it.

Several hours before the summit began, Mr Trump declared on Twitter: "Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!"

The official Twitter account of Russia's foreign ministry retweeted Mr Trump about four hours later with two words: "We agree."

During the press conference, Mr Trump was asked about his tweet and whether or not he held Russia "accountable for anything in particular."

He replied: "I hold both countries responsible. I think the United States has been foolish. I think we have all been foolish."

Without being prompted on the topic of collusion, he also added: "There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it."

5. Football diplomacy

US President Donald Trump (left) receives a soccer ball of the 2018 FIFA World Cup from Russian President Vladimir Putin during a joint press conference in the Hall of State at Presidential Palace following their summit talks, in Helsinki, Finland, on 16 July 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Near the conclusion of the press conference, Mr Putin segued from a discussion on Syria to the World Cup that Russia had just hosted.

Seemingly out of nowhere, one of Mr Putin's aides produced a football from the World Cup and handed it to him.

Mr Putin said: "Speaking of the football, actually, Mr President, I will give this ball to you and now the ball is in your court."

Mr Trump received it with a smile, and replied: "That's very nice. That will go to my son, Barron."

Senator Lindsay Graham later expressed his wariness on Twitter, writing: "If it were me, I'd check the soccer ball for listening devices and never allow it in the White House."


Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.