Donald Trump, U.S. President (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Trump Scraps Putin Meeting at G-20 Over Russia's Ukraine Strife

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump canceled a one-on-one meeting with Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 summit, citing Russia’s capture of Ukrainian ships and sailors in the Kerch Strait near Crimea earlier this week.

Trump made the announcement in a tweet Thursday aboard Air Force One on his way to the G-20 gathering in Buenos Aires, where the two leaders were scheduled to meet later this week. The cancellation is a blow to Putin, who has sought to show he’s not isolated from the international community despite Russian aggression against Ukraine.

The decision to call off the first one-on-one meeting since the July summit in Helsinki adds to tensions between the two leaders and marks an abrupt change in Trump’s strategy of cultivating warmer ties with the Kremlin. He’s been pilloried for that approach by lawmakers from both parties, who will likely see the break from Putin positively.

The Kremlin hasn’t yet received official notice of the cancellation, spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, brushing off the surprising news. “If it’s confirmed, then that will mean the president has a couple of more hours for useful meetings during the summit,” he said by text message en route to Buenos Aires.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders, speaking aboard Air Force One, said the president made the decision after discussing the situation in Ukraine with Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Adviser John Bolton. She added that she didn’t know if Trump and Putin had spoken but said that there was contact about the decision between the two governments.

Despite the bravado, the Kremlin had been touting the meeting as confirmed earlier on Thursday, releasing a schedule showing the block set aside for it on Saturday morning. Putin had originally hoped to have a sit-down earlier this month at the Paris commemoration of the end of World War I but that plan was shelved at the last minute and reduced to sitting at the same table at lunch.

‘Stop Any Interaction’

Alexander Dynkin, president of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, a state-run think tank in Moscow that advises the Kremlin on foreign policy, signaled that such a move could be a deal-breaker.

“If there is no meeting, then probably we will have to stop any interaction with the current administration,” Dynkin said.

In a subsequent tweet, Trump opened the door to another meeting once the recent incident with Ukraine is resolved: “I look forward to a meaningful Summit again as soon as this situation is resolved!”

Until now, the relatively weak Western response to the latest flare-up with Ukraine -- neither the U.S. nor Europe seem inclined to go beyond rhetorical condemnations -- had been met with satisfaction in Moscow.

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