The Latest: Gorbachev has high hopes for Putin-Trump summit

MOSCOW (AP) — The Latest on the meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin (all times local):

7:20 p.m.

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev says the next month’s U.S.-Russian summit could become a historic event.

Gorbachev was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying Thursday that if Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump make steps toward cooperation, their meeting will go down in history as a major landmark.

Putin and Trump are set to meet on July 16 in Helsinki, Finland.

Gorbachev, who had a summit with U.S. President George H.W. Bush in Helsinki in 1990, says the Finnish capital makes a perfect venue for the meeting.

Finland has a long tradition of hosting U.S.-Russian summits, particularly during the Cold War, when the country was a neutral buffer state and its capital, Helsinki, served as a gateway between the Communist East and the West.


5:30 p.m.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry is warning against expectations of any breakthroughs resulting from President Vladimir Putin’s summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Thursday that Moscow has “pragmatic and realistic” expectations for the July 16 summit in Helsinki, Finland, given the number of issues to be addressed.

Russia-U.S. ties have sunk to post-Cold War lows over Ukraine, Syria and the alleged meddling by Russia in the U.S. presidential election.

Zakharova said at a briefing that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo might meet before the presidential summit, but that no specific arrangements have been made.

She says U.S.-Russian discussions will focus on the situation in Syria and in the broader Middle East, the armed conflict in Ukraine and combating international terrorism.


4:40 p.m.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is welcoming the meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, as tensions simmer between the military alliance and Moscow.

Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels on Thursday that NATO’s approach to Russia is one of defense and dialogue, so it’s important to talk to the biggest country in the European neighborhood.

He says “It’s absolutely, totally in line with NATO policies to talk to Russia, to meet with Russian leaders. We don’t want a new Cold War. We don’t want to isolate Russia. We want to strive for a better relationship.”

He says “for me, dialogue is not a sign of weakness. Dialogue is a sign of strength.”

Trump holds talks with his NATO counterparts in Brussels on July 11-12.


3:15 p.m.

President Donald Trump is repeating his denials of any Russian election interference as details are released on his upcoming summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The White House and the Kremlin announced Thursday that the two leaders would meet in Helsinki on July 16.

Ahead of the announcement, Trump tweeted, “Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!”

Trump has continually parroted the Kremlin’s denial of interference in the 2016 elections. That move has put him out of step with the findings of the U.S. intelligence community and nearly all Democrats and Republicans in Congress who say there is clear evidence of Russian efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.


3 p.m.

The Kremlin and the White House say the summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump will take place in Helsinki on July 16.

The synchronized announcement comes a day after Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton held talks with Russian officials in Moscow to lay the groundwork for the summit.

Trump said Wednesday that “getting along with Russia and with China and with everybody is a very good thing.” He said they would discuss Syria, Ukraine and “many other subjects.”

The Russian leader had two brief meetings with Trump on the sidelines of international summits last year, but plans for a full-fledged summit have been thrown back amid the U.S. investigations into alleged collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia.


12:05 p.m.

Moscow says the top Russian and U.S. diplomats are likely to meet to set the stage for a summit between President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is likely to meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo within two weeks. Ryabkov said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies Thursday that Moscow already has made a proposal regarding the specifics of the meeting and is waiting for Washington’s answer.

Trump told reporters that he’ll probably meet with Putin during a July trip to Europe. He mentioned Helsinki, Finland, and Vienna, Austria, as possible venues, adding that he would be receiving an update from his adviser, John Bolton, who visited Moscow Wednesday to lay the groundwork for the summit.