Austria welcomes Putin but rebuffs his call for sanctions to be lifted

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"We have an interest in an European Union that's united and prosperous, since the European Union is our most important commercial and economic partner", Putin told Austria's ORF television a day before an official visit to Vienna.

During the visit, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Putin will hold small- and large-scale talks, meet the press together, attend signing ceremonies and welcome banquets, and exchange views on bilateral relations, cooperation in key areas, and other global and regional issues of common concern, said Hua. Special counsel Robert Mueller in February charged Yevgeny Prigozhin, a wealthy businessman dubbed "Putin's chef", and 12 others in an alleged conspiracy to meddle in the 2016 election.

"Donald said he was anxious about the possibility of a new arms race", Putin said of a recent call with Trump, CNN reported.

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"I think that the possibility of these meetings depends to a large extent on the internal political situation in the United States", he said, CNN reported. "The congressional election campaign is getting under way and then there will be the next presidential election, and the President of the United States is coming under attack over various matters".

A summit between Trump and Putin is also reportedly in the works.

"Donald said he was anxious about the possibility of a new arms race", the Russian president told the Austrian network."I fully agree with him - however, to prevent a possible arms [race], we should think about it, we should do something about it, give corresponding instructions to our Foreign Ministry and the US State Department".

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"I therefore think everyone has an interest in cancelling them", he added in the ornate former imperial palace in central Vienna where he met Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen. He is a restaurant keeper in St Petersburg, ' Putin told his interviewer.

Unlike many other European Union countries, Austria didn't expel Russian diplomats over the nerve agent poisoning in Britain earlier this year of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

Putin told ORF that the Russian government had no connection to Prigozhin's activities. Ask them, ' he responded, before pointing the finger at financier George Soros, who he said 'interferes in all affairs around the world'.

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"The [U.S.] Department of State would tell you's Mr. Soros's private business. Well, here it's Mr. Prigozhin's private business".