Donald Trump spoke on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, but the White House offered no acknowledgment that the call took place, and as of late Wednesday, had offered no “readout” — that is, a summary — of the call, as is standard practice for phone calls from the White House to other world leaders. Instead, the Russian Embassy announced that the call had taken place with a statement on its official Facebook page.
The call was also reported by Sputnik News.
Sputnik News is an English-language online news site that is funded by the Russian government and has been accused of acting as a propaganda outlet for the Kremlin by the FBI, according to a Newsweek report.
Trump, “in phone talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, offered assistance to Moscow in fighting wildfires in Siberia,” the Russian embassy said in its statement posted to Facebook.
The wildfires in Siberia are currently burning over an area approximately the size of Massachusetts, according to a Newsweek report, generating so much smoke that the clouds have now reached North America.
But the Russian Embassy also said that the conversation between Trump and Putin on Wednesday left Putin feeling optimistic.
“The Russian president assessed this move on the part of the US president as a guarantee of the future restoration of full-fledged bilateral relations,” the Embassy statement said, as quoted by Politico.
If the Russian report of the call’s subject was accurate, Trump appears to have offered more help to Russia to fight its wildfires than to the U.S. state of California, which also experienced devastating wildfires last year. Trump accused the state of mismanagement in its forest policy.
“Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!” he announced in January, as quoted by HuffPost.
Trump also claimed that California could prevent wildfires by “raking and cleaning and doing things,” which Trump claims is standard practice in Finland, according to a Guardian account. Trump claimed that Sauli Niinistö, the president of Finland, told him about the country’s “raking” activities, but the Finnish president said he did not recall discussing “raking” with Trump.
Putin, however, thanked Trump for his offer of help, according to Reuters, and told Trump that Russia “had already mobilized air forces to fight Siberian wildfires.”
Whether Trump would follow through on the offer to help combat the Russian wildfires remained unclear from the Russian Embassy statement, and the White House offered no further information about the phone call. At about 10:30 p.m. EDT, the White House finally acknowledged that the call between Trump and Putin had taken place, according to an NBC News Twitter post.