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Frustrated, Kremlin blames U.S. for lack of substantial meeting between Putin and Trump

President Trump shakes Russian President Vladimir Putin's hand before a group photo session at the APEC summit in Vietnam. (Michael Klimentyev/Sputnik/Kremlin pool/Pool/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)
President Trump shakes Russian President Vladimir Putin's hand before a group photo session at the APEC summit in Vietnam. (Michael Klimentyev/Sputnik/Kremlin pool/Pool/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

President Trump approached Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday evening before a scheduled group photo at the APEC summit in Vietnam.

As Trump stuck out his hand to shake the Kremlin leader's hand, he patted Putin on the shoulder. Both men were dressed in traditional Vietnamese shirts. The two leaders exchanged brief pleasantries before returning to their places in the photo shoot.

It wasn’t the meeting the Russians had hoped for.

But after several days of what one Kremlin aide frustratingly called “contradictory signals” from the White House, the brief meeting might be the only one-on-one time the Russian and U.S. presidents get during Trump’s Asia trip.

For days, both sides had reported that a Putin-Trump sideline meeting would most likely happen at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. But by Friday morning, there was still no confirmation about when or if the meeting would happen.

"Our conflicting information is coming from our American colleagues," Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made an offhand comment to a Russian journalist that blamed the uncertainty about the meeting on U.S. bureaucrats.

“Why are you asking me this?” Lavrov told the journalist. “President Trump himself has expressed his desire to meet. I don’t know what his pencil-pushers are saying. Ask them!”

The White House has said there were scheduling conflicts on both sides.

Putin and Trump had their first meeting a the G20 summit in Germany in July. That meeting did not improve deteriorating relations between Washington and Moscow, and the diplomatic standoff continues.

The Kremlin this week expressed hope that a meeting in Vietnam between the two leaders would be a step toward improving bilateral relations, as well as provide a venue to discuss topics such as North Korea and Syria.

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