US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin are meeting privately, joined only by translators, in Finland after both sides unveiled agenda of the talks focusing on bilateral and global issues.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and US President Donald Trump shake hands before their one-on-one meeting in Helsinki.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and US President Donald Trump shake hands before their one-on-one meeting in Helsinki. (AFP)

US President Donald Trump on Monday said Russia and US had not been getting along for the past few years but the two countries had "great opportunities."

"The world wants to see us get along," Trump said at the start of his summit with Russia's President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. 

Until the leaders met, the agenda of the talks was unclear but Trump said their discussions would involve trade, the military, missiles, nuclear weapons and China, including their "mutual friend" China's Xi Jingping. 

Closely watched summit

Monday's meeting is being closely watched on both sides of the Atlantic, coming days after the US Justice Department indicted 12 Russian military intelligence officers for their role in hacking Democratic entities during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Trump faces bipartisan scepticism in Washington that his desire for warming ties is displacing concerns over Russia's annexation of Crimea and other destabilising actions.

The two leaders were seated together in a room adorned by American and Russian flags at the Finnish Presidential Palace, separated by a small table.

The meeting started about 45 minutes late following Putin's delayed arrival to Finland.

Talking to the media before the one-on-one summit with Putin, Trump did not mention Russia's meddling in the US election.

'Continued constant contacts'

While Trump spoke more extensively amid incessant clicks of cameras, Putin said only that "the time has come to talk thoroughly about bilateral relations as well as various hotspots in the world."

Putin revealed little about his agenda in terse remarks at the start of summit.

Putin called the meeting part of "continued constant contacts" between the men.

Putin looked serious but smirked when journalists asked Trump about Russian meddling in the US presidential campaign. Trump refused to answer.

"We all have a lot of questions and hopefully, we will come up with answers most importantly. It is great to be with you," Trump told Putin, before shaking hands briefly and heading into talks, which are being closely watched around the world.

The summit will follow a larger working lunch, and will conclude with a joint news conference.

'Baby step' toward fixing relations

Earlier on Monday, Putin's spokesman said he hoped the summit with Trump was a "baby step" toward fixing exceptionally bad US-Russian relations.

Dmitry Peskov told broadcaster RT that the men had no strict agenda but recognised their "special responsibility" for global stability.

He said European countries shouldn't be worried about a possible US-Russian rapprochement or decisions about Europe made "over the heads of Europeans."

Peskov said the Russian leader respected Trump's "America first" stance because Putin put Russia first, but said the only way to make progress at the summit was if both sides were open to finding areas of mutual benefit.

Russian officials say Putin is expected to reiterate denials of meddling in the 2016 US presidential campaign.

People depicting pregnant US President Donald Trump attend a protest at Senate Square to support women's reproductive rights.
People depicting pregnant US President Donald Trump attend a protest at Senate Square to support women's reproductive rights. (Reuters)

Protests swell in Helsinki

More protests followed Trump to Finland on Monday, ahead of his meeting with Putin. 

Abortion-rights activists dressed as heavily pregnant Donald Trumps demonstrated on the streets of Helsinki, just a stone's throw away from where the US and Russian presidents met.

On Senate Square, male "pregnant Trumps" and women wearing pink gags railed against a Trump order reinstating what critics call a "global gag rule" that bans providing federal money to international family planning groups that perform abortions or provide information about them. 

Hundreds of people also marched through the streets of the Finnish capital, demonstrating against Trump and Putin's presence in the country.

Many held up placards and banners defending human rights, and denouncing racism and fascism.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies