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Trump and Putin hold phone call amid warnings by GOP not to abandon sanctions

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President Donald Trump, accompanied by from second from left, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Vice President Mike Pence, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, Senior Advisor Steve Bannon, and White House press secretary Sean Spicer, speaks on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017, in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President Donald Trump had a 50 minute phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin Saturday amid reports that Republican leadership had warned him not to go soft on Russian sanctions.

According to the British daily newspaper The Telegraph, the call was intended to be "the first test of an embryonic reset of Russo-US relations that has previously been largely confined to mutually flattering public comments and a shared disdain for Mr Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama."

White House press secretary Sean Spicer chronicled the call to Putin, and the several other world leaders Trump reportedly spent the afternoon connecting with via telephone, with a tweet Saturday afternoon.

Trump's relationship with Russian has been characterized as fawning and sycophantic by some, while others say it's his responsibility as U.S. president to strengthen the relationship between the two nations. As the Telegraph notes, the history of conflict between Washington and Moscow is long and fraught with tension:

[G]rievances include Russia's annexation of Crimea and military intervention in eastern Ukraine and Syria, the sanctions the US imposed in response, and the exchange of accusations of hacking following apparent Russian attempts to swing the US election in Mr Trump's favour.

The differences reflect longer-running quarrels about Nato expansion, US missile defence plans, and human rights that together have contributed to the worst collapse in trust between Moscow and Washington since the end of the Cold War.

Some members of Trump's own party warned him ahead of his call with Putin not to abandon sanctions recently imposed on Russia by former President Barack Obama in retaliation for alleged meddling in the 2016 election.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, warned Friday they were dedicated to turning the punishments against Moscow into law, and asked Trump to carefully consider easing any sanctions.

"I hope President Trump will put an end to this speculation and reject such a reckless course," McCain said in a statement. "If he does not, I will work with my colleagues to codify sanctions against Russia into law."

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