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Trump meeting with Putin postponed until 'after Russia witch hunt over'

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin shake hands after a joint press conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Monday, July 16, 2018. Picture by Jussi Nukari/Lehtikuva/AP
By Associated Press Reporters

DONALD Trump's proposed Washington meeting with Vladimir Putin has been delayed until 2019.

National security adviser John Bolton cited special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election as the reason for the delay.

Mr Bolton said: "The president believes that the next bilateral meeting with President Putin should take place after the Russia witch-hunt is over, so we've agreed that it will be after the first of the year."

The White House said last week that Mr Trump had directed Mr Bolton to invite Mr Putin to Washington for a meeting in the autumn.

This came amid the backlash over Mr Trump's performance at a news conference with Mr Putin following their Helsinki summit, and many members of Congress had objected to them meeting again in the autumn.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the United States will never recognise Russia's annexation of Crimea, and will continue to insist that Ukraine's territorial integrity be restored.

In a statement released by the State Department, Mr Pompeo said the US will hold to its long-standing principle of refusing to recognise Kremlin claims of sovereignty over territory seized by force, in violation of international law.

He called for Russia to respect principles and "end its occupation of Crimea".

The statement was released shortly before Mr Pompeo was due to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where he is expected to face tough questioning about President Donald Trump's summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Mr Trump has previously suggested that US opposition to Russia's annexation of Crimea could be reconsidered.

In anticipation of potentially hostile questions, Mr Pompeo's Crimea Declaration sought to underscore US commitments to the post-Second World War international order that many believe Mr Trump has weakened.

In it, Mr Pompeo took Russia to task for its actions in Ukraine, particularly the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Russia has defended its move, saying the annexation was approved by Crimean voters in a referendum.

The US and its European allies have all said the referendum was illegal as it was held without the consent of the government in Kiev and was conducted in a highly flawed manner.

"Through its actions, Russia has acted in a manner unworthy of a great nation and has chosen to isolate itself from the international community," Mr Pompeo said.

Even before the statement was released, Mr Pompeo was taking a tough line on Russia and defending the Trump-Putin meeting as he prepared for his Senate testimony.

In an interview transcript released ahead of the Crimea statement, Mr Pompeo said Mr Trump and Mr Putin "didn't find much place to agree" on Ukraine when they met in Finland last week. He said Mr Trump made clear to Mr Putin that the so-called Minsk Accords to settle the Ukraine conflict is the right path forward.

He also reiterated US support for an investigation that held Russia responsible for downing a Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine in 2014. Mr Pompeo said what the Russians did was "deeply immoral" and that those responsible for the MH17 disaster should be held accountable.

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