Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday met US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after complaining of worsening ties with Donald Trump’s administration as the two sides spar over Syria.
Mr Putin received Mr Tillerson at the Kremlin along with Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov after the top diplomats held several hours of talks dominated by the fallout of an alleged chemical attack in Syria.
Despite initial hopes in Moscow of better ties with the US under Mr Trump, the two powers have descended into a furious war of words over the incident and a retaliatory US missile strike against the forces of Moscow’s ally Bashar al-Assad last week.
Russia has slammed Washington’s attack on a Syrian airbase and, as Mr Tillerson met Mr Lavrov, Mr Putin admitted that relations between Washington and Moscow have worsened in the three months that Mr Trump has been in office.
“You can say that the level of trust on a working level, especially on the military side, has not improved but most likely worsened,” Mr Putin said in the transcript of an interview with Mir television released by the Kremlin. “Where is the proof that Syrian troops used chemical weapons? There isn't any. But there was a violation of international law. That is an obvious fact.”
Mr Tillerson, a former oil executive, might once have looked like the perfect envoy to mend strained ties, having worked closely with the Kremlin while negotiating deals for ExxonMobil, the energy giant. But the underlying tensions between the former Cold War foes never went away and last week’s chemical attack has left ties once again in crisis....