US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, had another, previously undisclosed conversation at this month’s G20, the White House has confirmed.
They spoke towards the end of a formal dinner but the White House has not revealed what was discussed.
President Trump has condemned media revelations of the talks as “sick”.
The two leaders’ relationship is under scrutiny amid allegations of Russian interference in the US election.
US intelligence agencies believe Moscow tried to tip the election in Mr Trump’s favour, something denied by Russia. Mr Trump has rejected allegations of any collusion.
The extra conversation happened during a private meal of heads of state at the G20 summit in Hamburg earlier in the month.
Mr Trump left his seat and headed to Mr Putin, who had been sitting next to Mr Trump’s wife, Melania, US media said. The US president was alone with Mr Putin, apart from the attendance of the Russian president’s official interpreter.
Mr Trump had been seated next to Japanese PM Shinzo Abe’s wife, so the US interpreter at the dinner spoke Japanese, not Russian. No media were in attendance.
Given the poor state of relations between Washington and Moscow and the controversy surrounding Russia’s efforts to interfere with the US presidential campaign, each and every encounter between Mr Putin and Mr Trump is bound to be carefully scrutinised.
Thus the apparently impromptu discussion between the two men at the G20 dinner inevitably raises many questions. What was President Trump seeking to do in approaching the Russian president? Were matters of substance discussed? If so, why was no formal note taken? And why did the US president have to rely upon a Russian official for translation?
This is all highly unusual, especially at a time when relations between the two countries are laden with so many problems.
Mr Trump also appeared unaware of another dimension – the message that his tete-a-tete would send to other leaders in the room, who must have watched the US president’s gambit with some unease.
The length of the talks has been disputed.
Ian Bremmer, president of the US-based Eurasia Group, who first reported them in a newsletter to clients, said: “Donald Trump got up from the table and sat down with Putin for about an hour. It was very animated and very friendly.” (BBC)