Russian president Vladmir Putin arrives in Helsinki for summit with US counterpart Donald Trump

Vladimir Putin has landed in the Finnish capital Helsinki half hour behind schedule for his summit meeting with Donald Trump.

Putin's plane touched down 30 minutes later than planned, pushing back the start of his one-on-one talks with Trump.

In the past, Putin was late for meetings with Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and Pope Francis, among many
others.

In 2014, he was hours late for meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel, after his previous stop in Serbia lasted longer than usual.

Trump and Putin are meeting amid fraying Western alliances and developments in the investigation into Russian meddling in the US presidential election.

The meeting has already been condemned by members of Congress from both parties after the US indictment last week of 12 Russian military intelligence officers accused of hacking Democrats in the 2016 election to help Mr Trump's presidential campaign.

But the US president is undeterred and is set to meet face-to-face with Mr Putin.

Mr Trump, who has been trying to lower expectations about what the meeting will achieve, said that he thought the summit would go ‘fine'.

The meeting comes amid speculation about whether Mr Trump will rebuke his Russian counterpart for the election meddling that prompted a special counsel probe that he has repeatedly labelled a witch hunt.

Mr Trump continued to undermine the investigation in a series of tweets from Helsinki before the meeting, blaming it for fraying US-Russian relations.

He said: ‘Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse'.

He blamed ‘many years of US foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!' for the breakdown.

He also continued to blame his predecessor, Barack Obama, for failing to stop Russia's efforts to sway the 2016 election in his favour, claiming that when Mr Obama ‘was informed by the FBI about Russian Meddling, he said it couldn't happen, was no big deal, & did NOTHING about it'.

The Obama administration did take action, including confronting Mr Putin in person as well as expelling nearly three dozen Russian diplomats the US said were actually intelligence operatives and imposing new sanctions.

While Mr Trump was eager for a made-for-TV spectacle that will dominate headlines like his sit-down with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last month, the Kremlin's primary mission was simply to have the summit happen.

Mr Putin hopes the meeting, which comes hours after he presided over the World Cup final, will help him forge good personal ties with Mr Trump and focus on areas where Moscow and Washington may be able to find common ground, such as Syria.

The two leaders first meet one-on-one in the Finnish presidential palace's opulent Gothic Hall, then continue their discussions with an expanded group of aides and over lunch in the Hall of Mirrors, once the emperor's throne room.

The leaders will then take questions at a press conference.




METRO UK

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