Putin after Syria strike: US-Russia ties worse since Trump took office

Russian president floats views on recent Syrian gas attack, including that the incident was a set up designed to discredit the Assad regime.

Donald Trump (L) and Vladimir Putin (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Donald Trump (L) and Vladimir Putin (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
MOSCOW - Levels of trust between Moscow and Washington have deteriorated since US President Donald Trump took office, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview broadcast on Wednesday.
Asked about relations since Trump became president, Putin said, according to a transcript of the interview released by the Kremlin: "One could say that the level of trust on a working level, especially on the military level, has not improved, but rather has deteriorated."
Aftermath of suspected chemical gas attack in Idlib , Syria on April 4, 2017 (REUTERS)
Asked about accusations that Syria's government launched a chemical weapons attack in Idlib province, Putin said that Damascus had given up its chemical weapons stocks.
He said he believed there were two main explanations for the incident in Idlib province: that Syrian government air strikes had hit rebel chemical weapons stocks, releasing poisonous gas, or that the incident was a set-up designed to discredit the Syrian government.
Despite his statements about the chilled relations between the two nations, Putin may meet visiting US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson later on Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with reporters.
"There is a certain possibility," that the meeting will take place, Peskov said, if Tillerson and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, who are having talks in Moscow, deem it expedient to brief Putin on their discussions.
Peskov also said Western powers' calls on Russia to stop supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad amount to giving terrorists a free hand.
During the talks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated the Kremlin's position that the US strikes on Syria were unlawful and that it is important not to allow any new strikes to be carried out, while Tillerson acknowledged "sharp differences" between their respective nations.
Tillerson also said he looked forward to an open and candid discussion, and that Washington's lines of communication with Moscow would always remain open.