The Latest: Putin denies political link between Ross, Russia – Washington Post

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HANOI, Vietnam — The Latest on President Donald Trump’s visit to Asia (all times local):

7:20 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is brushing off recent reports that the US commerce secretary had interest in a company that does business with a major Russian company with possible ties to Putin relatives.

Reports this week said Wilbur Ross is a shareholder in a shipping company that relies on the Russian company Sibur for much of its revenue. A man reported to be one of Putin’s sons-in-law is believed to be a major Sibur shareholder.

Putin said Saturday that “This is nothing more than business. It never had and does not have any relation with politics.”

Putin also rejected any Russian connection to the recently indicted former campaign manager of President Donald Trump, Paul Manafort.

Manafort is charged with offenses including failing to register as a foreign agent while advising the party of Viktor Yanukovych, the Russia-friendly Ukrainan president who was ousted amid massive street protests in 2014.

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6:55 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says the lack of a formal meeting with President Donald Trump at a conference in Vietnam reflects continuing tense relations between their countries.

Putin and Trump had several brief exchanges Friday night and Saturday as world leaders gathered for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference. They did not have a formal, one-on-one meeting.

Russian news agencies quoted Putin as saying that the lack of a formal meeting shows that U.S.-Russia relations have “not yet emerged from the state of crisis.”

But he was also quoted as blaming the absence of a sit-down on scheduling conflicts and “certain matters of the protocol” that couldn’t be worked out.

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5:50 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he didn’t see Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (shin-zoh AH’-bay) take a tumble on the golf course.

But he says, if it was Abe, “I’m very impressed because (Abe is) better than any gymnast I’ve ever seen.”

Trump made the remarks to reporters aboard Air Force One as it headed toward Hanoi, Vietnam, for meetings and a state banquet.

Japan’s TV Tokyo aired footage of a player identified as Abe trying repeatedly to hit his ball out of a steep bunker. As he finally made the shot, Trump began walking away, and Abe ran up the side of the bunker to catch up.

But just as the 63-year-old prime minister stepped onto the grass, he slipped, making a backward flip down into the sand. He quickly stood up and picked up his cap.

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5:35 p.m.

President Donald Trump says Russia President Vladimir Putin once again denied meddling in the 2016 election during their conversations Saturday at a summit in Vietnam.

And Trump still won’t say definitively whether he believes Putin.

Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One that every time Putin sees him he says: “I didn’t do that.”

Says Trump: “And I believe, I really believe that when he tells me that he means it.”

Multiple U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Moscow meddled in the 2016 election to try to help Trump win. Multiple investigations are also under way to determine whether Trump campaign officials colluded with them.

Trump dismissed the heads of those agencies as “political hacks.” He says there’s plenty of reason to be suspicious of their findings.

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5:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump is blaming Democrats for creating an “artificial barrier” to U.S.-Russian relations by accusing Russia of meddling in the 2016 election.

Trump tells reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Hanoi that the allegations, which he’s dismissed as a witch hunt in the past, are damaging his ability to work with Russia. And he says that’s putting lives at stake.

He says the “artificial barrier” gets in the way of putting global pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

Without that obstacle, Trump says, “we could really be helped a lot, tremendously with Russia having to do with North Korea.”

He goes on to say that, “If we can save many, many, many lives by making a deal with Russia having to do with Syria, and then ultimately getting Syria solved and getting Ukraine solved and doing other things, having a good relationship with Russia’s a great, great thing. And this artificial Democratic hit job gets in the way,” he says, adding that, “people will die because of it.”

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5:25 p.m.

President Donald Trump has landed in Hanoi, Vietnam, as he heads toward the end of his first official visit to Asia.

Trump is attending a state banquet Saturday, before Sunday meetings with Vietnam’s president and prime minister. He next stops in the Philippines before heading back to the U.S.

Trump spent the first half of Saturday meeting with world leaders gathered in the seaside city of Danang for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

Trump has been hammering leaders on trade and urging them to do more to pressure North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.

He was also seen chatting on several occasions with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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4:15 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump say they welcome President Bashar Assad’s “recent statement of commitment” to the Geneva process for resolving the conflict in Syria.

Putin and Trump met on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in Vietnam.

Assad’s commitment to the process, in line with a UN Security Council resolution, implies “constitutional reform and free and fair elections under the supervision of the United Nations” in which all Syrians can participate, including those in the diaspora, a Kremlin statement said.

Trump and Putin also reaffirmed support for de-escalation zones in Syria, including one in the southwest that was agreed to in the presidents’ previous meeting in July in Germany. They also called on UN members to increase humanitarian aid contributions for Syria.

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3:50 p.m.

The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump have reaffirmed their countries’ intentions to defeat the Islamic State group in Syria.

The leaders reached an agreement during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in Vietnam on Saturday.

A Kremlin statement says they agreed to support existing communications channels to ensure the security of the U.S. and Russian armed forces, as well as to prevent dangerous incidents involving the forces of partners fighting IS. The Kremlin says they confirmed that these efforts will continue until the final defeat of IS.

The Kremlin says they also agreed that the Syrian conflict “does not have a military solution,” and that final resolution must come in the framework of the so-called Geneva Process.

The White House so far has not commented.

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3:40 p.m.

President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin may not be having a formal meeting while they’re in Vietnam for an economic summit, but they appear to be chumming it up nonetheless.

Snippets of video from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference Saturday show the two leaders chatting and shaking hands at events, including the traditional world leaders’ group photo.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded last year that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election in order to help Trump win. Putin has denied interfering in the election.

Later Saturday, Trump heads to the capital city of Hanoi to attend a state banquet.

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