White House Denies a Formal Meeting With Putin on the Sidelines of G20

December 1, 2018 Updated: December 2, 2018

BUENOS AIRES—The Kremlin claimed that President Donald Trump had a brief meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the margins of the G20 summit on Nov. 30. The White House, however, said both leaders had a number of casual conversations, playing down Kremlin’s statement.

Kremlin foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov told Reuters that both leaders had a brief meeting but did not provide the details of the interaction.

Ushakov also said he met with National Security Advisor John Bolton and that both countries were ready to continue the dialogue. Ushakov said he was not sure when the next summit between Trump and Putin might take place.

In response to questions about Trump’s interactions with Putin, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said both leaders had informal conversations.

“As is typical at multilateral events, President Trump and the First Lady had a number of informal conversations with world leaders at the dinner last night, including President Putin,” she said in a statement.

Trump had earlier canceled a bilateral meeting with Putin that was scheduled to take place during the summit in Argentina, citing Russia’s ongoing detention of Ukrainian ships and sailors.

“Based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia, I have decided it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting in Argentina with President Vladimir Putin,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Nov. 29. “I look forward to a meaningful Summit again as soon as this situation is resolved!”

Trump had decided to cancel his bilateral meeting aboard Air Force One en route to Argentina.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CNN on Dec. 1 that Trump canceled the meeting because of Russia’s behavior “that is deeply inconsistent with international law.”

Pompeo said that “the President wanted to send a clear, unambiguous message that we find that type of behavior unacceptable, so we canceled the meeting.”

He confirmed that Russia’s aggression against Ukraine was the sole reason for the cancelation and called suggestions that Trump’s decision was influenced by developments in the special counsel Robert Mueller probe “ludicrous.”

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