Putin meets Tillerson amid Syria turmoil
Despite speculations to the contrary, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. There was speculation this would not happen due to the tension between the two nations. "Russian President Vladimir Putin is meeting US Secretary of State Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov at the Kremlin," Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Peskov did not elaborate on what the three discussed. Earlier in the day, Tillerson held a meeting with Sergey Lavrov. The top US diplomat is visiting Moscow amid a conflict over the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria. The US blamed the incident, which happened almost two weeks ago, on Damascus, and retaliated with a barrage of cruise missiles targeting a Syrian airbase.
Russia called it a possible false flag operation and said the US attack was an act of international aggression. It also said more provocative incidents involving toxic agents may follow in Syria, now that the Trump administration has demonstrated it can be baited into the reaction that the enemies of Damascus want from it.
Moscow believes a proper investigation, including at the scene of the reported attack, is necessary to establish the truth.
Relations between the United States and Russia have grown so tense that it was unclear whether Putin would agree to see Tillerson, a man he once gave a medal of friendship.
In the 24 hours before Tillerson landed, the White House accused Putin's government of covering up evidence that the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for sarin gas attacks on its own people, launched from a base where Russian troops are operating.
Putin shot back that the charge was fabricated and accused the administration of President Trump, who American intelligence agencies believe benefited from Russian cyber attacks intended to embarrass his Democratic rival during the election campaign, of fabricating the evidence to create a fake confrontation.
"This reminds me very much of the events of 2003, when US representatives in the Security Council showed alleged chemical weapons discovered in Iraq," Putin said, referring to an intelligence failure that Trump has also cited in recent months. "The exact same thing is happening now," he charged. He quoted two Russian writers, Ilya Ilf and Yevgeni Petrov, authors of the 1928 satire "The 12 Chairs," and said, "'It's boring, ladies.' We have seen this all before." But the diplomatic theater playing out in Moscow on a rainy Wednesday morning was far from boring: Putin, operating on home turf, was looking for any way to shape the narrative of Tillerson's first trip here as secretary of state.
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