Putin meets with Tillerson in Moscow

Andrew Rafferty and Abigail Williams
Russian President Vladimir Putin heads the Cabinet meeting in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, April 12, 2017.
Alexei Nikolsky | Sputnik, Kremlin Pool | AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Moscow on Wednesday as tensions between the two countries continued to escalate over the American military strike in Syria, Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed.

The meeting comes after officials in Moscow initially said Putin would not meet with Tillerson during his first visit to Russia, later hedging to say a sit down was possible.

Relations between the Cold War adversaries have become even more volatile following a U.S. strike against a Syrian airfield last week that officials believe launched a chemical attack that killed more than 80 civilians in northwest Syria.

Earlier in the day, Russian officials leveled a barrage of criticism against President Donald Trump's administration ahead of Tillerson's planned meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who joined Putin for the talk with the American secretary of state.

Tillerson's Russian counterpart warned the U.S. diplomat that Moscow believes it is "fundamentally important not to let these actions happen again in the future."

Tillerson, however, used his opening remarks to portray a more diplomatic tone in which he called the talks "an important moment in the United States' relationship with Russia."

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The meetings Wednesday "represent a continuation of our communications and discussions and dialogue that began in Bonn," Tillerson said, referring to a G-20 summit on Feb. 16. when he met with Lavrov.

Russia has been one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's most important supporters, while the U.S. has supported the rebels battling the Syrian leader.

"Putin is backing a person that's truly an evil person. I think it's very bad for Russia," Trump said in an interview with Fox Business on Wednesday.

Meanwhile Putin, who had an infamously icy relationship with President Barack Obama, said in an interview that U.S.- Russian relations have actually gotten worse since Trump took office.

"One could say that the level of trust on a working level, especially on the military level, has not improved, but rather has deteriorated," Putin said in an interview released on the Kremlin website.