WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump said Thursday that he canceled a meeting with Russia’s Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit in Argentina because the Russians continue to hold Ukrainian vessels and sailors seized last weekend in an incident in the Black Sea.
“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 in Argentina with President Vladimir Putin. I look forward to a meaningful Summit again as soon as this situation is resolved!,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
The president made the announcement from Air Force One en route to Buenos Aires for the gathering of the leaders of the 20 major economies.
The Kremlin said Wednesday that the US and Russian presidents were set to meet Dec. 1 in the Argentine capital to discuss topics such as terrorism and nuclear disarmament.
And a statement released Tuesday by the White House detailing Trump’s summit schedule referred to bilateral sessions with Putin as well as with the leaders of Argentina, China, Germany, India, Japan and South Korea.
Last Sunday, a Russian coast guard vessel intercepted two Ukrainian gunboats and a tug just off the Crimean Peninsula in the Kerch Strait, a body of water linking the Black Sea with the Sea of Azov.
Russian vessels opened fire on and seized the ships, injuring at least three Ukrainian seamen in the process.
The detained sailors have since been put on trial in Simferopol, Crimea.
The incident came six months after Russia opened a bridge connecting the Russian mainland with Crimea, which was annexed by Moscow in 2014 following the overthrow of Ukraine’s elected president.
Since the opening of the bridge, Russian authorities have drastically stepped up inspections of Ukrainian civilian and military ships passing through the Kerch Strait, seen by Russia as part of its territorial waters.