Putin indicated that relationships between himself, the US and Tillerson were rocky
In 2013, Putin awarded Tillerson, then CEO of ExxonMobil, the Order of Friendship
Russian President Vladimir Putin teased US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Thursday, saying that since the former ExxonMobil executive was given a Russian state honor in 2013 he “fell in with the wrong crowd.”
“We also awarded the Order of Friendship to Mr. Tillerson, your fellow countryman, but fell in with the wrong crowd. He is moving to a slightly different direction but I hope the wind of friendship and cooperation will take him to the right path eventually,” Putin, who was addressing an American moderator, said during a plenary session at the Eastern Economic Forum in the Russian city of Vladivostok.
In 2013, Putin awarded Tillerson, then CEO of ExxonMobil, the Order of Friendship, one of the highest honors Russia gives to foreign citizens. The silver badge underscored the close ties that existed for many years between the two individuals.
At the forum, however, Putin indicated that relationships between himself, the US and Tillerson were rocky, noting that in light of tensions between the two countries, his government still has connections with American companies, including energy giant Exxon.
“Despite all of our complications today on the diplomatic level, we still have contacts with American companies, including such energy giants as Exxon, and Mr. Tillerson was the head of this company in the past,” Putin said. “Despite that he is organizing searches in our diplomatic institutions, we still work on resolving (problems) with his ex-company.”
Putin said Russia is currently working with Exxon to resolve questions on its “biggest project,” the Sakhalin 1 oil and gas fields in the Far East.
Relationships between the US and Russia have deteriorated significantly in recent months. Following a Russian order that the US cut its diplomatic staff in Russia, Tillerson announced last week that Russia must close its consulate in San Francisco and two diplomatic annexes in New York and Washington. On Tuesday, Russia threatened to sue over the closures.
At the forum, Putin also emphasized finding a diplomatic solution to the crisis on the Korean Peninsula, telling attendees that the United States could be playing into North Korea’s hands by trying to ramp up the pressure on Pyongyang.
The Russian leader has been unusually outspoken about North Korea and how the global community should respond in the wake of the country’s North Korea’s sixth nuclear test Sunday.
CNN’s Joshua Berlinger, Frederik Pleitgen, Antonia Mortensen, Mary Ilyushina, Matt Egan, Julia Horowitz and Chris Isidore contributed to this report.