Rudy Giuliani, a personal lawyer of U.S. President Donald Trump, has abruptly canceled a scheduled appearance at a Kremlin-backed event in Armenia that he visited in 2018 and which this year is expected to feature Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
The Washington Post on September 27 had reported hours earlier that Giuliani, a key figure in a controversy over Trump’s telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, had confirmed in an interview that he planned to take part in a panel at the conference.
But after the Post reported that he would attend the event, Giuliani said he would not take part.
He told the Post that "I didn’t know Putin was going" and that "discretion is the better part of valor" in explaining his reversal.
According to the report, Giuliani said he had "never seen" the forum's website with participants and agenda.
"I thought I was going to an Armenian security conference," he added.
The White House and State Department declined to comment.
The forum's website agenda said Giuliani would participate in the event, scheduled for the Armenian capital, Yerevan, on September 30 to October 1 and would join a panel led by Sergei Glazyev, a longtime Putin aide who has been under U.S. and European Union sanctions since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014.
Giuliani, however, attended the same event last year in October while appearing alongside Glazyev, according to reports by the nonprofit reporting site ProPublica and Mother Jones magazine.
The event's website says the organizers are the government of Armenia; the Moscow-based Eurasian Economic Union, a trade alliance launched by Putin in 2014 as a counterweight to the European Union; the World Armenian Congress; the Russian Trade Ministry; and the Eurasian Economic Commission.
Organizers said that, along with Putin, Iranian President Hassan Rohani is scheduled to attend the forum.
The Post had reported that Giuliani’s decision to attend the event had "astounded national security experts."
His appearance would have taken place days after he has come under scrutiny for his role in dealings with officials in Ukraine in what has become the heart of an impeachment inquiry in the U.S. House of Representatives against Trump.
Giuliani has confirmed that he has contacted Ukrainian authorities about possibly investigating former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who had business dealings in Ukraine.
Trump has also acknowledged asking Ukraine to investigate Biden, a leading candidate to challenge the U.S. president in the 2020 election, but both he and Giuliani deny they did anything wrong. Democrats say Trump attempted to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival by threatening to hold up military aid.
In an earlier interview before his withdrawal, the Post said Giuliani rejected questions about whether it was appropriate for him to attend the event, which he also participated in last year.
"I will try to not knowingly talk to a Russian until this is all over," he joked.
Giuliani, a former mayor of New York who has in the past unsuccessfully run for the Republican presidential nomination, declined to say how much he was to be paid for the appearance or who would pay for it.
Giuliani says he works for Trump but does not take a salary from the U.S. government or the president.