President Donald Trump plans to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday, according to his schedule.
The meeting will take place at 7:30 a.m. PT in the Oval Office and will be closed to press, according to the White House.
Lavrov had planned to be in Washington Wednesday to meet with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Tillerson and Lavrov are scheduled to meet earlier Wednesday to discuss Ukraine, Syria and bilateral issues, the State Department announced.
In addition to the tensions between Washington and Moscow over geopolitics, the meetings between Tillerson and Lavrov, and now between Trump and the Russian foreign minister, come against a backdrop of recriminations over alleged Russian interference in the 2016 elections and the firing of FBI director James Comey.
Comey was dismissed Tuesday, the White House announced, sweeping away the man who is responsible for the bureau’s investigation into whether members of the Trump campaign team colluded with Russia in its alleged interference in last year’s election.
The Trump administration attributed Comey’s dismissal to his handling of the investigation into Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s email server, but Democrats ridiculed that notion, raising parallels to Watergate-era firings.
Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates said Monday that she alerted the White House earlier this year that then-Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn could be “essentially blackmailed by the Russians.”
Her testimony pushed the story of the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia back into the headlines.
In an interview last week, Trump once again refused to blame Russia for attempting to influence the 2016 election through hacking and other means, despite an overwhelming consensus by U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin also spoke by phone last week about the war in Syria for the first time since Trump ordered a missile strike against a Syrian government airbase last month after an alleged chemical weapons attack by the regime.