Russia Denies Indictments Are Based in Evidence, Hopes Helsinki Summit Will Thaw Relations with U.S.

Shortly after the U.S. indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers were made public on Friday, Russia’s foreign ministry said there was no evidence the 12 people indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller were linked to military intelligence or hacking into the computer networks of the U.S. Democratic party and its candidate Hilary Clinton.

According to Reuters, the Russian ministry maintained the indictment was aimed at damaging the atmosphere before the upcoming summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his U.S. counterpart in Helsinki on Monday.

Meanwhile, Reuters also wrote that the Kremlin hopes next week’s U.S.-Russia summit may pave the way for President Donald Trump to visit Moscow and for President Putin to make an official visit to Washington.

“You never know but let’s see, perhaps there will be a conversation about concrete visits to Moscow or to Washington,” Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters on Friday, calling the summit “the main event of the summer.”

Although neither side expects major breakthroughs, the main topics of discussion during the meeting are expected to revolve around Western grievances over Russia’s annexation of Crimea, its backing of pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine and its support for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.

The Kremlin, however, hopes that the summit will be a starting point and will help improve relations between the two countries that are now at their worst since the Cold War. One area where the two presidents are expected to clash is over plans for the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline which is set to increase Russian energy exports to Germany under the Baltic Sea.

Speaking in London on Friday, Trump called the pipeline “a horrible mistake” and told NATO leaders only days earlier that Germany had become a “captive” of Russia due to its energy reliance. Ushakov said the Kremlin was worried by U.S. opposition to the project and would argue its case if the issue was brought up in Helsinki.

“The U.S. position strikes us as not constructive and in contradiction to the rules of international trade and economic relations,” he said.

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