President Vladimir Putin said ties between Russia and the United States appear to have deteriorated under Donald Trump in an interview released Wednesday as the countries’ top diplomats met in Moscow.
“You can say that the level of trust on a working level, especially on the military side, has not improved but most likely worsened,” Putin said in a transcript from an interview with Mir television posted by the Kremlin.
The comments came out as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov held tense talks following an alleged Syrian chemical attack and subsequent missile strike by Washington.
Moscow and Washington are trying to figure each other out during the first visit by a senior member of Donald Trump’s administration to Russia.
The US has blamed Moscow’s ally and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of the deadly attack that killed scores of civilians and launched missile strikes against one of the regime’s airbases in retribution.
Putin has angrily rejected the accusations against Damascus and slammed the US bombing as “a violation of international law”.
Despite hopes of an improvement in Russia-US ties under Trump, the Tillerson-Lavrov talks look set to be dominated by the split over Syria — where more than 320,000 people have died in six years of war.
Washington has said it is hoping to pry Russia away from its support for Assad, but the Kremlin on Wednesday decried any calls to drop the Syrian leader as “pretty absurd”.
Prior to Tillerson’s arrival, hopes in Moscow had already dimmed that Trump would make good on his pledge to improve ties with Russia, as relations with the Kremlin have become politically toxic on the back of claims that Putin conspired to get Trump elected.