Russian President Vladimir Putin thanked President Donald Trump in a phone call on Sunday (17 December) for US intelligence that helped thwart terrorist attacks in St Petersburg. The phone conversation came just days after Trump called Putin to thank him for his "nice words" on the US economy during his annual press conference.
The Kremlin said the CIA provided Russia with key information regarding a potentially deadly plot to bomb Kazan Cathedral among other locations in St Petersburg. Russian police arrested a group of suspects in raids on Friday, the White House and Kremlin said. Neither identified the potential attackers.
Russia's Interfax news agency first reported the phone call - the second in four days between the two leaders.
"The Russian president asked the US president to convey his appreciation to the Central Intelligence Agency director and the operatives of US intelligence services who received this information," the Kremlin said.
"Vladimir Putin assured Donald Trump that in the event that Russian intelligence services receive information that concerns terrorist threats to the US and its citizens, they will promptly pass it on to their US colleagues via partner channels."
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later confirmed the Russian account of the call.
"Based on the information the United States provided, Russian authorities were able to capture the terrorists just prior to an attack that could have killed large numbers of people. No Russian lives were lost and the terrorist attackers were caught and are now incarcerated," according to a White House readout.
"President Trump appreciated the call and told President Putin that he and the entire United States intelligence community were pleased to have helped save so many lives. President Trump stressed the importance of intelligence cooperation to defeat terrorists wherever they may be."
Trump later called CIA Director Mike Pompeo and CIA agents "to congratulate him, his very talented people, and the entire intelligence community on a job well done".
"Both leaders agreed that this serves as an example of the positive things that can occur when our countries work together," the White House said in the handout.
The phone call comes just days after Trump called Putin to thank his Russian counterpart for his praise of Trump's handling of the US economy and to discuss the "very dangerous situation" in North Korea. That call also triggered fierce criticism from officials, Democrats and social media.
It also comes amid strained relations between the US and Russia amid allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Trump's administration has also been under intense political scrutiny as special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged collusion between Trump's team and Moscow continues to gain momentum.
While the Kremlin has denied the allegations, Trump has continued to slam the ongoing probes as a "witch hunt" and "Democrat hoax".
Twitter, on the other hand, was in disbelief over the back-and-forth phone calls between the two leaders.
"Locker room talk?" one Twitter user questioned while another said: "It means Putin's playing Trump and Trump is playing us."
"This is not even remotely normal. There's something going on here," one person said.
"Something seriously broken to hear about these calls from the Kremlin before the WH. Or, are they one and the same?" another added.