Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with US President Donald Trump on Wednesday and praised him and his administration as problem solvers.
The bilateral meeting at the White House was the highest-level public contact between Trump and the Russian government since the Republican took office on Jan. 20.
It came just as Trump came under fire over his abrupt firing of FBI director James Comey, who was leading a probe into Moscow’s alleged interference in the 2016 US presidential election.
Moscow has repeatedly denied any meddling, and Lavrov said it was “humiliating” for Americans to hear claims that Russia controls the political situation in their country.
2 photos of Trump in the Oval Office with Russian FM Lavrov and Ambassador Kislyak. They’re from the Russians. Nothing from White House yet. pic.twitter.com/s8BSYDGn62— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) May 10, 2017
“Rein in” Assad
Lavrov and Trump discussed the war in Syria, in particular a Russian plan to create so-called de-escalation or safe zones in the country. Trump described the talks as “very, very good”.
“We want to see the killing, the horrible killing, stopped in Syria as soon as possible and everyone is working toward that end,” Trump told reporters.
Speaking at the Russian Embassy in Washington after also meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Lavrov praised the talks as “constructive”.
“Now our dialogue is free of the ideology that was characteristic of the Obama administration,” he said. “The Trump administration, the president himself and the secretary of state, I was persuaded of this once again today, are people of action.”
Tensions between Washington and Moscow grew following U.S. air strikes against a Syrian airfield in April in response to a chemical weapons attack that Washington blamed on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – a longtime ally of Russia.
During his meeting with Lavrov, Trump underscored “the need for Russia to rein in the Assad regime, Iran and Iranian proxies,” the White House said.
Lavrov brushed off reporters’ questions about Russians’ contacts with people in Trump’s campaign, saying “there is not a single fact” or piece of compelling evidence supporting allegations of Russian meddling.
“I believe it is even humiliating for the American people to hear that the Russian Federation is controlling the situation in America,” Lavrov said. “How can it be possible for such a great power, and great country?”
Earlier, as Tillerson and Lavrov posed for photographs, a reporter asked Lavrov if Comey’s sudden dismissal would cast a shadow over the talks. Lavrov replied in a sarcastic tone: “Was he fired? You’re kidding. You’re kidding.”
MFA Russia 🇷🇺 (@mfa_russia) May 10, 2017