Donald Trump calls off G20 meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, citing Ukraine crisis
- Trump said Russia’s failure to release Ukrainian sailors captured over the weekend had led him to scrap his planned meeting with Putin in Argentina
US President Donald Trump has cancelled a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin that had been scheduled for Saturday in Buenos Aires, blaming Russia’s failure to return Ukrainian ships and sailors it seized on Sunday.
Trump cancelled the meeting with a couple of tweets, soon after the Kremlin had claimed it had been confirmed by the White House.
The Russian government said it had not been informed of the cancellation, which Trump appears to have decided on the way to the G20 summit in Argentina.
Trump tweeted: “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.”
“I look forward to a meaningful summit again as soon as this situation is resolved!”
The cancellation follows an incident on Sunday in the Sea of Azov between Ukraine and Russia, in which Russian ships rammed and opened fire on Ukrainian vessels and took their crews prisoner.
The Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, has called on Nato to deploy naval ships to the Sea of Azov to “provide security” amid a deepening crisis with Russia.
He said of Trump’s action, “This is how great leaders act.”
Meanwhile, Russian-controlled courts have put 24 Ukrainian sailors under two-month pre-trial detention. Some of the sailors have been flown to Moscow, two of their lawyers told Agence France-Presse on Thursday.
Shortly before announcing his decision, Trump told reporters he would be given the latest report on development on the Sea of Azov incident on the way to Buenos Aires.
....in Argentina with President Vladimir Putin. I look forward to a meaningful Summit again as soon as this situation is resolved!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2018
At their last substantive meeting, in Helsinki in July, Trump drew heavy criticism in Washington for suggesting he took Putin’s word on whether Russia interfered with the 2016 US presidential election, rather than the assessment of the US intelligence agencies.
Trump’s behaviour around his Russian counterpart will come under increasingly intense scrutiny, after the special counsel investigation into his campaign’s links to the Kremlin gathered pace on Thursday.
Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the timing of contacts with Russian officials about a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
Asked what the two leaders would talk about if they met, the US national security adviser, John Bolton, said earlier this week: “I think all of the issues that we have, on security issues, on arms control issues, on regional issues, including the Middle East – I think it will be a full agenda. I think it will be a continuation of their discussion in Helsinki.”
Putin is planning to meet the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who has arrived in Buenos Aires, while an Argentinian prosecutor studies possible charges of crimes against humanity, for the high civilian toll from the Saudi-led military campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen, and the torture of dissidents such as Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered and dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.
Trump has said repeatedly he is ready to meet the crown prince in Buenos Aires, but Bolton told reporters this week there were no plans for such a meeting