Kremlin says Trump, Putin have agreed to meet at G-20 summit on Dec 1

US President Donald Trump had previously cast the Buenos Aires sit-down with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin into doubt, after Russia seized Ukrainian vessels and crew members over the weekend. PHOTO: NYTIMES

MOSCOW (THE WASHINGTON POST) - The Kremlin said on Thursday (Nov 29) that Washington has confirmed a one-on-one meeting between President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at noon on Saturday (Dec 1) at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina.

Mr Trump had previously cast the Buenos Aires sit-down into doubt, telling The Washington Post he might cancel seeing Mr Putin after Russia seized Ukrainian vessels and crew members over the weekend, sparking global condemnation and a sharp escalation in tensions between the neighbours.

"We are expecting the two presidents to speak briefly at first, but everything is left to the discretion of the heads of state," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

"Washington has confirmed," he added.

They will discuss strategic security, bilateral relations, disarmament and regional conflicts, Mr Peskov said. "This is in the interests not only of our two countries, but the world at large."

Following the Trump-Putin meeting on Saturday, American and Russian delegations will convene for talks that may last an hour, Mr Peskov added.

The crisis between Russia and Ukraine has continued to deepen. Kiev is hoping Mr Trump will push Mr Putin on the confrontation, which began on Sunday (Nov 25) when Russia fired on Ukrainian ships trying to enter the Kerch Strait, a crucial waterway separating the Black and Azov seas.

But while Russia's maritime manoeuvres have been sharply criticised by senior US and Western officials, Mr Trump has been more reticent on the issue. He stopped short of condemning Russia, instead saying: "I don't like that aggression."

Limited martial law in Ukraine is in place for 30 days, and Russia said on Wednesday it was strengthening air defence and early warning radar systems on the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine four years ago.

The Kremlin also scoffed at an appeal by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko for Nato to reinforce the Azov Sea with naval ships, saying this was yet another provocation by Kiev designed to further escalate the situation.

Kiev is banking on its Western allies to provide military support to contain Russia, which it says is preparing to invade its territory by land. The latest crisis threatens to significantly worsen the conflict. Fighting in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces has resulted in the deaths of 10,300 people.

There have been widespread calls for Russia to immediately release 24 Ukrainian sailors it captured, and some European leaders have called for fresh sanctions against Russia.

But Russia, for the most part, has shrugged off Western pressure. Russia maintains that the crisis was created by Mr Poroshenko for political gain. The deeply unpopular leader could seek reelection in a vote next March.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.