Trump says he may pull out of Putin meeting over Russia-Ukraine crisis: 'I don't like aggression'

US president says he will decide whether to go ahead with talks after receiving ‘full report’ on Moscow’s seizure of Ukrainian navy vessels

Chris Baynes
Wednesday 28 November 2018 13:27
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Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin arrive for a meeting in Helsinki in July 2018
Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin arrive for a meeting in Helsinki in July 2018

Donald Trump has suggested he may cancel a planned meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in response to Russia’s seizure of three Ukrainian naval ships.

The US president said he would make a decision on the sit-down after receiving a “full report” on the situation from his national security team.

“Maybe I won’t even have the meeting,” he told The Washington Post. “I don’t like that aggression. I don’t want that aggression at all.”

The comments were Mr Trump’s strongest criticism of the Kremlin since Russian border forces shot at and seized the Ukrainian vessels in the Black Sea on Sunday.

Mr Trump had previously implied both countries were to blame for tensions around the Crimean peninsula, telling reporters on Monday: “We do not like what’s happening either way.”

But Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko said the US had pledged to do “what we [need] to do to protect Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity”, including “military assistance”.

Kiev has since released what it says is the exact location where its vessels were fired on, apparently showing that they were in international waters.

The disclosure contradicts Moscow’s claim that the ships entered its territorial waters. Russian officials have vowed to prosecute the vessels’ crews for allegedly violating the border and said they do not consider the seamen prisoners of war.

Mr Putin on Wednesday accused Ukraine of “provocation”, claiming Mr Poroshenko wanted to inflame tensions with Russia to boost his waning support ahead of elections next year.

He added: “I hope I can talk to Trump in Argentina. I hope we can discuss trade barriers. Trump in general has a positive attitude.”

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that the meeting between Mr Putin and Mr Trump was still on. He told reporters that Russia was aware of the US president’s latest remarks but had not received “any other information from our US counterparts”.

White House aides were also continuing to plan for the talks in Buenos Aires.

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The meeting between the two presidents is set to be just one of several high profile foreign policy engagements for Mr Trump on a hectic two-day visit to Argentina.

The US leader will have dinner with Chinese president Xi Jinping on Saturday evening, a meeting that could prove pivotal in determining if and how the ongoing trade dispute between their two countries can be resolved.

National security adviser John Bolton said Mr Trump would also be meeting German chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, Argentinian president Mauricio Macri, South Korea’s Moon Jae-in, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.

White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders described the trip as an opportunity for the president to cement relations with other world leaders and advance a global economic system based on “free, fair and reciprocal trade”.

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