Senior Russian officials publicly chided U.S. President Donald Trump following his announcement on Thursday that he would no longer meet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during the G-20 summit of world leaders in Argentina.
Trump announced the cancellation via Twitter, citing Russia’s seizure of two Ukrainian gunboats and a tugboat in the Kerch Strait, a shared zone which sits between Ukraine and Russia. He said his decision “would be best for all parties concerned.”
But some wondered if new developments in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation were to blame.
Russian officials questioned Trump’s justification for scrapping the meeting at the last minute and dismissed the notion that the diplomatic development would be a setback for Russia.
A spokesperson for the Kremlin on Thursday said the cancellation would free up time “for useful meetings.”
A top Russian lawmaker said the forgone meeting was a lost opportunity “not for Putin, but for Trump.”
“We have heard the official explanation and taken note of it,” Kremlin foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said during a Friday briefing. “But is it true? I think the true reason is rooted in the domestic political situation in the United States.”
The leaders could still connect at the summit. The Kremlin said Friday that it expects an informal meeting to take place. The White House seemed to leave open that possibility, saying only that no meeting had been scheduled.
Asked if he would exchange pleasantries with Putin, Trump told reporters Friday, “not particularly. I don’t know.”