US President Donald Trump met with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in the Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires last November without a translator or note-taker, The Financial Times reported Tuesday.
The Financial Times cited an unnamed Russian government official who claimed that the conversation had lasted about 15 minutes, and the two addressed such topics as the Syrian conflict and the Kerch Strait provocation when three Ukrainian warships violated Russia's maritime border. Trump and Putin also reportedly discussed the potential for a formal meeting.
President Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists that it was not the Kremlin’s business to comment on whether the American translator was present during the Trump-Putin conversation on the margins of the G20 summit.
“Putin had a huge amount of episodic behind-the-scenes interactions on his feet on the side-lines of the summit. It is not our business at all as to who was there and who was not there with their translator. President Putin’s translator is always accompanying him – this is our business and here we have complete stability and complete order”, Peskov said.
According to the Kremlin spokesman, the “hysteria” in the media is “unfounded”, especially when it comes to stories about President Trump.
The White House stated earlier this month that the US president had an "informal" talk with Putin:
"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", White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.
The Ukrainian vessels were detained by Russia after refusing to respond to a lawful demand to leave the area, with sailors from the ships being taken into custody.
While Moscow accused Kiev of an unequivocal provocation and violation of international law, the Ukrainian authorities slammed Russia's lawful actions as "aggression" and called on the international community to take action.
Based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia, I have decided it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting….— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 29 November 2018
….in Argentina with President Vladimir Putin. I look forward to a meaningful Summit again as soon as this situation is resolved!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 29 November 2018
The Financial Times' piece comes as the relationship between the two presidents has once again been thrust into the spotlight due to the never-ending media reports speculating that Trump had gone to extraordinary lengths to hide details of his encounter with Putin in Helsinki in July 2018.
The US president has on numerous occasions stressed that it would be great to have good relations with Russia, and blasted Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into the alleged Trump campaign-Kremlin collusion, calling it a "witch hunt".
President Putin, for his part, emphasised in Helsinki that Russia "has never interfered and is not going to meddle in US internal affairs, including the election process".