During an interview with Austrian Broadcasting Corporation posted on YouTube and transcribed on the Russian government website, Putin remarked that he and Trump “regularly” talk on the phone. The White House website confirms that Trump and Putin have spoken eight times since Trump was elected, according to CNBC.
Putin’s remark was in response to the news presenter, Armin Wolf, asking the following question.
Mr. Prigozhin, along with 12 other Russian citizens, has been indicted in the United States for meddling in the presidential elections. You and Donald Trump talk so nicely over the telephone, but Trump has been President for a year and a half and there still has not been a bilateral summit between you, in contrast to Bush and Obama with whom you met within the first six months of their presidencies. Why is it taking so long?
Putin responded by saying that it has to do with the U.S. political struggle. He then said that “Indeed, Donald Trump and I have, firstly, met more than once at various international venues and secondly, we regularly talk over the phone. Our foreign affairs departments and special services are working fairly well together in areas of mutual interest, above all in the fight against international terrorism. This work is ongoing.”
The interview was being conducted by an Austrian TV channel in anticipation of Putin’s visit to Vienna on Tuesday. During the interview, Wolf did not shy away from asking questions about a large range of sensitive subjects. RT reported that Putin, on numerous occasions, asked Wolf to stop interrupting him and asked him to be patient. Regardless, Wolf pushed on. He asked about why Russia wants to “rock Europe,” what Putin thinks about North Korea, and on the status of Crimea.
Wolf also asked Putin specific questions about Yevgeny Prigozhin, one of the Russians that have been indicted during the Mueller probe. Putin sticks to the story that Prigozhin is merely a businessman in the restaurant industry with a side gig with “hacking opportunities.” He then asked if people have considered that the state of affairs is so low that a “Russian restaurant keeper” could sway worldwide elections. Putin denies involvement with Prigozhin and pivots to discussing George Soros.
“There is such a personality in the United State – Mr Soros, who interferes in all affairs around the world. I often hear from my American friends that ‘America as a state has nothing to do with [his activities]’. There are rumours circulating now that Mr Soros is planning to make the euro highly volatile.”
Putin said that just like the U.S. government denies involvement with George Soros, so does he when it comes to Prigozhin.
Back in February 2018, Prigozhin was indicted along with 12 others on a U.S. federal grand jury for meddling in the elections. Prigozhin was found guilty of running a “troll factory” called the Internet Research Agency. The IRA is accused of swaying voters with fake messaging that demeaned Hillary Clinton while raising voters’ opinions of Trump.
Although Putin denies his involvement with Prigozhin, the media has nicknamed him as “Putin’s chef,” and many believe the two have close relations.