Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesperson has asserted that the world leader plans to formally meet with U.S. President Donald Trump during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, contradicting the official stance of the White House that the leaders will not meet.
Putin and Trump's interactions have been heavily scrutinized by the press amid special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into the Russian government's role during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
On Nov. 10, Putin and Trump shook hands before the APEC gala dinner in Da Nang, Vietnam. The two world leaders reportedly exchanged a few words during a group photograph and then separated during the subsequent dinner. Trump joined the summit during his 13-day trip across Asia, Reuters reports.
On Nov. 5, Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One that he planned to meet with Putin during his Asia trip.
"I think it's expected we'll meet with Putin, yeah," Trump said, according to ABC News. "We want Putin's help on North Korea, and we'll be meeting with a lot of different world leaders."
On Nov. 9, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said that Putin and Trump would not hold a formal meeting during the APEC summit.
"Regarding a Putin meeting, there was never a meeting confirmed, and there will not be one that takes place due to scheduling conflicts on both sides," Sanders said during a press conference. "There is no formal meeting or anything scheduled for them."
Sanders added that Putin and Trump would likely informally greet each other during the summit.
"Now, they're going to be in the same place," Sanders continued. "Are they going to bump into each other and say hello? Certainly possible and likely. But in terms of a scheduled, formal meeting, there's not one on the calendar and we don't anticipate that there will be one."
On Nov. 10, Putin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov pushed back on Sanders' statement, asserting that Putin intended to have a formal meeting with Trump in Vietnam, The Telegraph reports.
"For now there is no clarity," Peskov said. "Contradictory information has been coming from our American colleagues. The meeting will happen on the sidelines one way or another."
Putin and Trump's relationship has become controversial during the ongoing federal investigation into whether or not associates of the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
On Oct. 30, Mueller's probe indicted former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his business associate, Rick Gates, for several financial crimes and conspiracy against the United States. Both Manafort and Gates have pleaded not guilty to the charges, The Washington Post reports.
That same day, the Department of Justice disclosed that former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential race.