White House won’t say if Russian election was ‘free and fair’

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The White House on Tuesday refused to say whether it believes Russian President Vladimir Putin’s victory was the result of a free and fair election.
“We’re focused on our elections. We don’t get to dictate how other countries operate,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters. 
“What we do know is that Putin has been elected in their country, and that’s not something that we can dictate to them — how they operate,” she added.
{mosads}Putin’s reelection to another six-year term was marred by reports of irregularities, which were seized upon by U.S. allies such as the United Kingdom. 
But Sanders revealed that Trump declined to press Putin on the election and a range of other controversial topics, including Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election and a nerve-agent attack on a former Russian double agent living in Britain that the U.S. and others have blamed on Russia.
The spokeswoman defended the decision, saying that Trump wanted to focus on areas of possible cooperation with Russia rather than divisive issues. 
“I didn’t say we couldn’t discuss it with the Russian leader, I said it didn’t come up on today’s call,” Sanders said. “Again, the focus was to talk about areas of shared interests. 
“We know that we need to continue a dialogue. It’s important for a lot of the safety and security of people across the globe. We would like to be able to work with them on things like North Korea, on Iran,” she said.
The White House also faced accusations of hypocrisy from critics who noted that it slapped sanctions last summer on what it called the “illegitimate” Venezuelan government after leader Nicolás Maduro tried to bypass the legislature to rewrite the nation’s constitution.
During a Tuesday morning phone call, Trump congratulated Putin on his reelection and proposed a summit meeting to discuss the “arms race” between the U.S. and Russia.
Several world leaders also called Putin to congratulate him on his election victory, including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 
But U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, who has harshly criticized Putin for the nerve-gas attack, has not called the Russian leader. French President Emmanuel Macron offered best wishes “to Russia and the Russian people,” but not Putin, in an official statement. 
Leading Putin opponent Alexei Navalny was banned from running due to a criminal conviction that critics said was politically motivated. International organizations reported incidents of ballot stuffing and election observers being barred from doing their jobs.
Tags Donald Trump Russia sarah huckabee sanders Vladimir Putin

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