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Vladimir Putin 'ready to invite Donald Trump to Russia'

President Donald Trump acknowledges the audience after speaking at the United States Steel Granite City Works plant on Thursday. Picture by Jeff Roberson, Associated Press
Jill Colvin and

Russian president Vladimir Putin is ready to invite his US counterpart Donald Trump to Russia - and said he is willing to visit Washington if he feels the conditions are right, reports have said.

Mr Putin made the comments at a news conference at the summit of leaders of the of BRICs countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Interfax news agency said he expressed readiness to invite Mr Trump.

The agency quoted Mr Putin as saying: "He has, by the way, such an invitation, and I told him about it."

It is not immediately clear if Mr Putin was referring to a formal invitation or a verbal one in spirit.

Interfax quoted Mr Putin as saying he is ready to visit Washington "if the appropriate conditions are created there".

Meanwhile, US president Donald Trump has denied that he knew in advance about a Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 between a Russian lawyer, his eldest son and other aides which had been convened to uncover dirt on his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

Mr Trump tweeted, "NO," he "did NOT know of the meeting with my son, Don jr."

The US president's campaign had been told the Russian lawyer had dirt on Mrs Clinton to share.

CNN reported that Mr Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, claims the then-Republican candidate knew in advance about the meeting.

CNN cited anonymous sources, saying Cohen was willing to share that information with special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating possible collusion between Mr Trump's campaign and Russia.

Mr Cohen was not present at the Trump Tower meeting, and the lawyer has offered no evidence to support the claim that Mr Trump knew about the meeting.

He does not have any recordings of the meeting, sources said.

Mr Trump also tweeted: "Sounds to me like someone is trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam."

Mr Cohen is under federal investigation in New York.

The US justice department has been investigating Mr Cohen for months, having raided his home, office and hotel room in search of documents related to a 130,000 dollar (£99,000) payment the attorney facilitated before the 2016 election to Stormy Daniels. The adult film actress claims she had sex with Mr Trump in 2006.

In an interview with ABC News earlier this month, Mr Cohen declined to answer if Mr Trump knew about the Trump Tower meeting in advance, citing the advice of his lawyers and the ongoing investigation.

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