Trump Cancels Putin G20 Meeting, Blames Russian Imprisonment of Ukrainian Sailors

Donald Trump Vladimir Putin
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November 29, 2018

President Donald Trump announced late Thursday morning that he would not meet as scheduled with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the upcoming G20 summit.

Trump explained in a tweet that the cancelation was a result of Russian military conduct following an altercation with Ukranian ships in the Azov Sea. Since "the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine," Trump said, it would be inappropriate to meet with Putin.

Trump was scheduled to meet with Putin at the G20 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the Kremlin confirmed as recently as Thursday morning. Speaking to reporters on the White House's South Lawn Thursday morning, Trump said he would "probably" meet with Putin.

Trump subsequently departed for Joint Base Andrews to board Air Force One. In transit to the summit, Trump sent the update, announcing the meeting was cancelled.

Last week, Russia used a tanker to blockade the Kerch Strait, which connects the two bodies of water. A Russian military ship rammed a smaller Ukrainian craft which seemed to be avoiding the collision. Ukrainian officials claim Russian ships also opened fire on Ukrainian artillery ships.

The Russian navy boarded the ships and took control of both ship and crew. Russian television subsequently aired forced confessions from some of the captured Ukrainians, who remain in Russian custody.

The Sea of Azov is of strategic interest to regional actors and the site of widely anticipated conflict. The Sea of Azov feeds into the Black Sea, where Russia maintains a heavy presence. Were Russia to maintain control over the strait, it would deny Ukraine access to its ports in the Azov Sea.

Ukrainian officials have made clear that Russian interference violates international law. Ukraine's president asked Thursday for NATO to send warships into the region to ensure freedom of navigation.

In a second tweet, Trump said he and Putin would meet again "as soon as this situation is resolved!"