- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 1, 2018

President Trump had an “informal conversation” with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Argentina, the White House said Saturday.

The conversation occurred at a dinner Friday for the world leaders gathered in Buenos Aries, despite Mr. Trump cancelling a a formal meeting with Mr. Putin because of Russia’s escalation of military tension with Ukraine.

“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,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

She didn’t say how long the conversation lasted or what the two leaders discussed.

Mr. Trump’s relationship with Mr. Putin has been closely scrutinized because of longstanding but unsubstantiated allegations of Trump campaign collusion with Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

He was widely criticized for being too soft on Mr. Putin when they met in July at a summit in Helsinki, Finland.

Mr. Trump abruptly called off the planned 2-hour meeting with Mr. Putin as he flew aboard Air Force One to the summit.

Mr. Trump said in a tweet that it would be “best for all parties” if he snubbed the Russian leader.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine, a U.S. ally but not a NATO member, escalated Sunday off the coast of Crimea with the Russian coast guard firing on and seizing three Ukrainian vessels.

The incident near Crimea in the Kerch Strait connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov sparked fears of war.

Kiev and Moscow blamed each other, and Ukrainian leaders warned that a full-scale military confrontation with Russia was possible.

Relations between Washington and Moscow have been badly strained since Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

The bad blood between the U.S. and Russia only worsened with Kremlin meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its implication in the nerve-agent poisoning of a former Russian spy this year in the U.K.

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