Donald Trump ‘Listened Carefully’ When Vladimir Putin Explained Russian Version of Events in Ukraine, Russian Media Says

President Donald Trump approached Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G20 summit in Argentina over the weekend and asked him about Russia’s ongoing conflict with Ukraine, a Russian official said.

“Our president discussed in as much detail as is possible for a 10- to 15-minute conversation. He explained our assessment of the situation, and the President of the United States listened carefully to our arguments,” said Yury Ushakov, Putin's aide and longtime Russian diplomat, according to the Russian paper Vedomosti. Ushakov noted that the conversation had taken place when the two leaders were standing up.

Hours prior to landing in Argentina, Trump canceled the official meeting with Putin that had been scheduled to occur during the G20 summit. He claimed he had canceled the meeting because Russian forces clashed with three Ukrainian navy vessels on November 25 as they attempted to cross from the Black Sea into the Sea of Azov via the Kerch Strait. The conflict ended with Russia seizing the Ukrainian ships and detaining 24 Ukrainian soldiers, some of whom were wounded.

Moscow said the conflict was caused by Ukrainian provocation, but analysts have found that Russian ships pursued the Ukrainians into international waters and that Russian troops had attempted to use lethal force. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has declared martial law in the parts of the country that are in proximity to Russian troops and claimed that Russia is preparing to launch a ground attack.

gettyimages-1066906084-594x594 President Donald Trump looks at Russian President Vladimir Putin during the family photo session at the G20 Summit's Plenary Meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on November 30. Trump approached Putin during the G20 summit over the weekend and asked him about Russia’s ongoing conflict with Ukraine, a Russian official said. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Image

On December 1, Poroshenko announced that Russia has about 80,000 troops stationed in occupied parts of Ukraine. Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and has been backing armed pro-Russian separatists in the part of eastern Ukraine known as the Donbas. Now, the Kremlin appears to be making it more difficult for Ukraine to use the waters and ports near Crimea. On Tuesday, officials said the Ukrainian ports at Mariupol and Berdyansk were partially unblocked for the first time since the conflict took place. 

Russian officials, however, said they did not believe that Trump had canceled the meeting with Putin over the standoff with Ukraine.

“Was the provocation organized by Kiev in this region the real reason for cancellation?” Maria Zakharova, the Kremlin's spokeswoman, asked during a press conference shortly after Trump canceled the meeting. “Publicly, we heard just such an explanation; we took note of it. Is this a reality?... I think that you still need to look for answers in the U.S. domestic political situation.”

Russian officials then predicted that Trump and Putin would have an “impromptu” meeting on the sidelines of the event.

At least one Trump administration official, the outgoing ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has had some tough words for Putin about Russia’s actions in the Kerch Strait. On Monday, Haley and House Speaker Paul Ryan were honored at a Hudson Institute gala that was partially funded by Ukrainian-born, American-British oligarch Lev Blavatnik. During the event, Haley called out Russia’s seizure of the Ukrainian ships as an “outrageous, blatant provocation.”

Special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating potential collaboration between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 presidential elections, is looking into some of Blavatnik’s political contributions, according to ABC News.

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