Trump said he pulled out due to tensions over Russian forces opening fire on Ukrainian navy boats and then seizing them and their crew on Sunday near Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
His decision also comes as a federal investigation into his 2016 election campaign’s ties to Russia is intensifying. Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty on Thursday to lying to Congress about a proposed Trump real estate project in Russia.
“Based on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine from Russia, I have decided it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting in Argentina with President Vladimir Putin. I look forward to a meaningful Summit again as soon as this situation is resolved!” Trump tweeted.
Trump’s tweet from aboard Air Force One shortly after takeoff from Washington on the way to Buenos Aires for a Group of 20 summit, was a sudden turnaround.
Roughly an hour earlier, he had told reporters he would probably meet with Putin at the summit and said it was “a very good time to have the meeting.”
Trump had also said he would get a final report during the flight to Argentina on the tension in the region after Russia seized Ukrainian vessels near Crimea on Sunday.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Thursday accused Putin of wanting to annex his entire country and called for NATO to deploy warships to a sea shared by the two nations.
While it was unclear why there was a sudden change in plans for a meeting, holding talks with Putin now could represent bad optics for the White House at a time when the president is under scrutiny over prior plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
Cohen pleaded guilty on Thursday to lying to Congress about the proposed Trump Organization skyscraper in Moscow, prompting Trump to lash out at Cohen as a “liar” and “weak person.”