MOSCOW – A group of U.S. senators, on a visit to Moscow on Monday, said they have invited Russian lawmakers to Washington later this year in a bid to help ease tensions between the two countries.
On the second trip by U.S. politicians to the Russian capital in just over a month, the delegation is this time being led by high-profile Republican lawmaker Sen. Rand Paul.
Paul said that members of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the upper house of the Russian parliament, the Federation Council, had been invited “to come to the United States to meet with us in Washington.”
“I think this is incredibly important,” the U.S. lawmaker was quoted as saying in translated comments by Interfax news agency.
The “main aim of the trip” was to “create a dialogue” and “improve relations” between Moscow and Washington, Paul added.
U.S. President Donald Trump has come under fire for failing to challenge Vladimir Putin over election meddling at their summit in Helsinki last month.
And Paul is the only Republican lawmaker to stand by Trump during that controversy.
The head of the Federation Council’s foreign affairs committee, Konstantin Kosachev, suggested that a meeting in Washington might take place “as early as during the fall session, that is, before the end of this year.
He said he saw the current trip by U.S. senators to Moscow as “especially valuable when other American politicians are making efforts to portray any contact with Russian politicians as toxic.
Kosachev dismissed new accusations that Russia had meddled in U.S. elections.
“There was no meddling in 2016. Certainly it will not happen during the ongoing election campaign either,” he said.
Rand Paul later met with Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov.
“During a conversation the two sides exchanged views on current issues of bilateral relations, as well as some aspects of arms control,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.
It added that “special attention was given to the possibility of developing inter-parliamentary contacts.
At the beginning of July, a group of U.S. senators met with Russian officials ahead of the Helsinki summit between Trump and Putin. They also met with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.