Obama, Putin chat — for 15 seconds

President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin shared a brief, 15-second greeting Thursday at the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. It was the first face-to-face interaction between the leaders after a summer of high-profile spats over Syria, Edward Snowden and gay rights.

According to the White House pool report, the pair shook hands and chatted briefly, with President Obama at one point flashing a big grin. Reporters could not hear what the pair discussed.

Earlier Thursday, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said there was no expectation of a formal bilateral meeting with Putin during the economic summit.


"However, it’s always the case at these summits that leaders end up sitting next to each other; they end up having side conversations," Rhodes said. "So I certainly anticipate the president will have interactions with President Putin even as we don't have a formal meeting scheduled."

Obama had originally planned to meet with Putin in Moscow before arriving in St. Petersburg for the G-20. But the White House scrapped that trip after the Kremlin offered temporary asylum to Snowden, the former Defense contractor who revealed details about the National Security Agency's top-secret surveillance programs.

Since then, Putin has publicly challenged Obama's assertions that Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime was responsible for last month's chemical weapons attack in the suburbs outside Damascus. 

Rhodes said Thursday that the administration would "continue to discuss with the Russians what our evidentiary basis is," but that the White House "could not be more confident in the evidence that we put forward."

Obama and Putin have also sparred over new anti-gay laws in Russia that threaten fines and imprisonment for those who participate in gay rights parades. On Thursday, Rhodes confirmed Obama would meet with LGBT activists while at the summit.

"Given our serious concerns with some of the recent laws that have been passed and restrictions on activity for gays and lesbians within Russia, we felt it was important to ensure that we were including their voices in a discussion with the president," he said.