Putin Meets with US State Secretary Tillerson, Russian FM Lavrov in Kremlin

Tensions between Moscow and Washington have further aggravated over Syria after the USA missile strike on a Syrian military airfield on Thursday, which it claims to be in response to the alleged Syrian government's chemical weapons attack last Tuesday in Khan Sheikhoun.

Putin, whom US intelligence agencies say tried to help Trump get elected, insisted that relations with the USA had only gone downhill since Trump took office in January.

The exchange between the two men was even more acrid earlier in the day, during their one-on-one, when Lavrov called the US retaliatory strike "unlawful", demanded that Russian Federation get to know the "real intentions" of the Trump administration and said Moscow had questions about the "very ambiguous" and "contradictory" ideas emanating from Washington.

Lavrov said Russian Federation understands Tillerson and President Donald Trump "inherited" a lot of issues from President Obama.

"You can say that the level of trust on a working level, especially on the military side, has not improved but most likely worsened", Putin said in the transcript of an interview with Mir television released by the Kremlin.

Russia's veto of a United Nations resolution condemning a deadly chemical attack in Syria and pushing Bashar Assad's regime to co-operate with an worldwide inquiry put the country on the "wrong side" of the argument, the Foreign Secretary said.

On Tuesday, Putin had claimed the USA would make up the existence of additional chemical weapons in Syria to justify further military action against the war-torn country's regime, without providing any evidence.

It was wrong to blame Assad without knowing the facts, he said.

One of Lavrov's deputies was even more undiplomatic. "We'll hope that this doesn't become the substance of American policy", he told Russian state-owned TV. Conflicts over Russia's actions in Ukraine and Russia's alleged interference in the USA presidential campaign were also likely topics. U.N Ambassador Nikki Haley has said the U.S.is prepared to "do more".

The decision by the United States to strike Assad's air base broke with its stated mission under Operation Inherent Resolve that US and coalition forces are only in Syria to defeat the Islamic State there.

While there was a "low level of trust" between the countries, Mr Tillerson pledged to increase communication between Washington and Moscow. "The world's two foremost nuclear powers can not have this kind of relationship".

In another possible setback to a thaw with Moscow, Trump said on Wednesday that North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is not obsolete, as he had declared during the election campaign past year.

The abstention by China, which usually sides with Russian Federation in the Security Council, was praised by Trump at a White House news conference. "We may be at an all-time low in terms of relationship with Russian Federation". This has built for a long period of time.

"We discussed Assad today", said Lavrov.

Tillerson had said he would challenge Russian Federation to distance itself from Assad and his Iranian backers, an idea that the Kremlin dismissed as "absurd".

"Are we insisting on it? No".

The White House has accused Moscow of trying to cover up Assad's use of chemical weapons after the attack on a rebel-held Syrian town last week killed 87 people last week.

Moscow has strongly objected to a U.S. strike against the Syrian air base the West believes the sarin attack was launched from.

Russian Federation again cast a veto at the United Nations Security Council to shield the Assad regime, blocking a Western bid on Wednesday to condemn a deadly gas attack in Syria and push the regime to cooperate with investigators.

A statement from Syria's general military command said the strikes caused "extensive material damage" and undermined counter-terror operations by the Syrian Army.

  • Leroy Wright