Kremlin warns US against releasing private calls between Putin and Trump amid Ukraine scandal

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Russia has warned the US against publishing private conversations between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump as it emerged the White House may have restricted access to the president’s conversations with multiple world leaders.

The comment was in response to the White House’s decision to publish a transcript of Mr Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky after Democrats announced the beginning of a formal impeachment investigation into whether the US president pressured his counterpart to interfere in the 2020 election.

Asked if Moscow is worried about transcripts of Mr Trump’s calls with the Russian President being similarly released, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “we would like to hope that it wouldn’t come to that in our relations, which are already troubled by a lot of problems.”

“The materials related to conversations between heads of states are usually classified according to normal international practice,” he added.

The publication of the call, in which Mr Trump and Mr Zelensky made critical comments about German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, has drawn acerbic comments from other Russian officials.

“We are waiting for the party to continue,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. “Let them publish transcripts of conversations between NATO allies. It would also be useful to publish minutes of closed meetings at the CIA, the FBI and the Pentagon. Put it all on air!”

Ms Zakharova also scoffed at Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to open an impeachment inquiry based on the call.

“Is it the Democrats’ job to make a laughing stock of the United States?” she said. “It’s exactly what Ms Pelosi has done to Congress, the White House and other state institutions.”

A whistleblower complaint at the centre of the Ukrainian scandal claimed White House lawyers had ordered a verbatim transcript of the call between Mr Trump and Mr Zelensky to be stored on a separate computer system to limit the number of people who could access it.

US media reports suggest similar tactics were used with Mr Trump’s calls with other leaders, including Mr Putin and Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammad Bin Salman.

Current and former administration officials told CNN that at least one phone call with the crown prince in the aftermath of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was never circulated to the officials who would usually be given access to it.

Access to at least one transcript of a call with Mr Putin was also tightly restricted, according to a former Trump administration official.

The White House has not yet commented on the claims.