On Thursday, President Donald Trump canceled a meeting at the G20 summit in Argentina with Russian President Vladimir Putin, citing the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Russian officials aren’t buying it, according to MSNBC. On Friday during a press conference, a Russian ministry spokesperson questioned the president’s motives, saying that the country suspected that Trump actually canceled due to a “U.S. domestic political situation” in reference to Michael Cohen’s guilty plea. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders shot back, reiterating that the real reason was “Ukraine.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said that the country questioned the president’s real motivation for canceling the meeting just hours before it was scheduled to take place and hours after the news about Michael Cohen broke.
“Was the provocation organized by Kiev in this region the real reason for cancellation?” Zakharova reportedly said. “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,” she added.
Trump had stated that he canceled the meeting because “ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia,” despite the fact that he had said, “I think it’s a very good time to have the meeting” just an hour before canceling. The president made the announcement via Twitter, adding that he was looking forward to trying a meeting again “as soon as this situation is resolved.”
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) November 29, 2018
Press Secretary Sarah Sanders responded to Russia’s poke by stating that the reason for the meeting cancellation was the situation between Russia and the Ukraine and noted that the cancellation could “undermine” the US-Russia relationship.
“The Russian Witch Hunt Hoax, which is hopefully now nearing an end, is doing very well,” Sanders said. “Unfortunately, it probably does undermine our relationship with Russia. However, the reason for our canceled meeting is Ukraine. Hopefully, that will be resolved soon so that productive conversations can begin.”
Critics say that Russia’s comfort with mocking the president shows that the country isn’t afraid to embarrass him in public. Other officials added fuel to the fire, saying that the meeting was a lost opportunity “not for Putin, but for Trump.” Another spokesperson for the Kremlin said that Trump’s cancellation freed up time for “useful” meetings.
At this point, no official meeting has been scheduled between the two leaders, and a Trump official has said that “there is no scheduled pull aside.”