MOHD RASFAN / POOL / EPA
Putin announced the order to reduce diplomatic staff in Russia after Congress passed a new round of sanctions aimed at punishing Moscow for allegedly trying to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and for its military aggression in Ukraine. President Donald Trump
signed the Russia sanctions bill on Wednesday.
Tillerson called the election meddling “certainly a serious incident” and said he discussed it with Lavrov.
“We talked about it in the discussion we had with Minister Lavrov yesterday — and trying to help them understand just how serious this incident had been and how seriously it had damaged the relationship between the U.S. and the American people and the Russian people, that this had created serious mistrust between our two countries and that we simply have to find some way to deal with that,” Tillerson said.
Asked how the U.S. can support the Philippine government in its fight against ISIS without endorsing human rights abuses in President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody crackdown on drugs, Tillerson said there was no conflict.
Tillerson said most of the assistance the U.S. is providing is information and the transfer of some drones and Cessna aircraft, as well as training and “guidance in terms of how to deal with an enemy that fights in ways that is not like most people have ever had to deal with.”
“I see no conflict — no conflict at all in our helping them with that situation and our views of the human rights concerns we have with respect to how they carry out their counter narcotics activities,” Tillerson said.
Duterte has been roundly criticized for a bloody war on illegal drugs that has left thousands of suspects dead.
Abigail Williams reported from Manila, and Phil Helsel reported from Los Angeles.