US President Donald Trump, right, and Russian President Vladimir Putin greet each other during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan. Picture: Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Osaka - US President Donald Trump, upon the prodding of journalists, turned to Russian President Vladimir Putin, wagged a finger and with a smirk on his face told his counterpart not to meddle in elections. 

"Of course," Trump said, when asked by journalists at the G20 summit in Osaka on Friday if he would warn Putin. He then proceeded to say: "Don't meddle in the elections, president."

Both Trump and Putin laughed as the press was wrangled out of the small room where the Russian and United States delegations were set to then hold extended talks. 

Trump and Putin have a range of issues to potentially discuss, including Iran, Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela and nuclear arms control. The US president said he has a good relationship with Putin and expects positive outcomes. 

As the G20 was getting under way just hours earlier, Trump and Putin appeared friendly. They walked together to the family photo, possibly chatting, before they parted ways, with Trump giving Putin a pat on the back. They later met again for their formal meeting. 

Last year, at a summit in Helsinki, Trump appeared to side with Putin over US intelligence agencies that had concluded Russia did intervene in the 2016 presidential race. 

Similarly, in a phone call with Putin in May, Trump said he did not raise election meddling, as he bashed the "Russian hoax," his pet term for the investigations into the interference. 

The Osaka session is the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders since the report by special counsel counsel Robert Mueller was released in April affirming that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Trump. 

At the previous G20 in Argentina, Trump at the last minute called off a formal meeting with Putin over three Ukrainian ships that were seized by Russia. 

While the ships issue remains unresolved, Trump decided this time to meet Putin anyway and perhaps move past older issues, including the election meddling, though it continues to feature heavily in domestic politics.

The president's rivals from the opposition Democratic Party are continuing to probe the Russian interference and any ties to the Trump campaign, with some looking to start impeachment proceedings. 

Already, campaigning is under way for the 2020 presidential election. 

dpa