Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday phoned President Donald Trump to thank him for a tip from the CIA that thwarted a terrorist attack being planned in St. Petersburg, the Kremlin said.
The call was confirmed by White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders in a tweet.
Putin told Trump that the information provided by the CIA allowed Russian law enforcement agencies to track down and detain a group of suspects that was planning to bomb the Kazan Cathedral and other crowded parts of Russia’s second-largest city.
Putin asked Trump to pass along his gratitude to the CIA and the American intelligence agents who received the intelligence, the Kremlin said. It said that Putin also told Trump that “if Russian special services obtain any information on terrorist threats against the United States and its citizens, they will definitely and immediately pass it to American counterparts through partner channels.”
It was the two presidents’ second conversation since Thursday, when they spoke following Putin’s annual four-hour televised press conference, during which Putin mentioned that booming U.S. stock market as an example of Trump’s successes. The White House said Trump thanked Putin for remarks he made “acknowledging America’s strong economic performance.”
Putin said that he doubted Trump would be able to improve relations between their two countries because the U.S. president was being held back by his political opposition, and allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election were being invented to raise doubts about Trump’s legitimacy.
Russian investigators said last week that the Federal Security Service, or FSB, had detained seven members of what officials identified as Islamic State cells. The suspects had been planning a suicide bombing this weekend in Kazan Cathedral, one of St. Petersrburg’s most recognizable landmarks, located on Nevsky Prospect, its most touristed thoroughfare. The cathedral was built between 1801 and 1811, and, controversially at the time, was designed along the lines of a Roman Catholic basilica.
The suspects had been using the messaging app Telegram to communicate with Islamic State leaders abroad, according to law enforcement agencies.
A video that ran on the state news agency RIA Novosti showed a man identified as Yevgeny Yefimov confessing that he planned to carry out a terrorist attack in the city. Later, Yefimov told a St. Petersburg court that he was planning to target the Kazan Cathedral. Three more people were arrested on Sunday in connection with the alleged planned attack, RIA Novosti reported.
Telegram was fined last month for refusing to provide Russian security forces access to the online conversations of two terror suspects linked to a suicide bombing in April that killed 16 people and injured roughly 100.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · David Filipov