Putin: US, Russia ties worsened under Trump

Indo Asian News Service

Moscow, April 12 (IANS) Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said relations with the US have worsened since President Donald Trump took office in January.

He told Russian TV that trust between the two countries had particularly deteriorated "on the military level".

The remarks were released as Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Moscow, amid rising tension over a chemical attack in Syria last week that killed at least 89 people, reported BBC.

The US has been urging Russia to end its support for the Syrian government.

But Russia denounced US airstrikes on a Syrian airbase, launched last week in response to the government's attack on a rebel area in Idlib province.

Asked by Mir television about accusations that the forces of President Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons, Putin reaffirmed that Syria had given up its chemical stockpile.

Speaking about relations between Moscow and Washington, he added: "One could say that the level of trust on a working level, especially on the military level, has not improved, but rather has deteriorated."

The statement came as Tillerson was holding talks with Lavrov.

Ahead of the meeting in Moscow, Lavrov said Russia had "a lot of questions regarding very ambiguous and contradictory ideas (...) coming from Washington".

The US airstrikes have led to confusion over US policy in Syria, with some officials suggesting a more aggressive stance against President Assad, said the report.

On Tuesday, Trump said the priority remained defeating the Islamic jihadist group and that the US was "not going into" Syria's civil war.

Tillerson said he looked forward to a "candid" exchange so that the two countries could better define and narrow their differences.

He warned that Russia risks becoming irrelevant in the Middle East because of its support for Assad.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council will vote later on Wednesday on a draft resolution by the US, Britain and France requiring the Syrian government to co-operate with an investigation into the chemical attack.

Putin also called for an independent UN investigation.