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Putin Says Tillerson Has 'Fallen In With Wrong Crowd' Since Being Honored By Russia

Then-ExxonMobil chief Rex Tillerson receives a state friendship award from Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg in 2013.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has "fallen in with the wrong crowd" since being awarded the Russian Order of Friendship four years ago.

"We have given...Rex Tillerson an Order of Friendship some time ago,” Putin said while speaking at an economic forum in the Far East city of Vladivostok.

“But it seems he has fallen in with the wrong crowd and is now steering in a different direction," he added, in comments taken by many in the crowd as a joke.

Putin has expressed hopes that relations with the United States would improve under President Donald Trump, who had regularly praised the Russian leader during the U.S. presidential campaign.

However, tensions have heightened over recent months as the United States has imposed increased sanctions on Moscow and as both countries have expelled each other's diplomats.

Putin gave Tillerson -- who was then chief executive of ExxonMobil -- the award in 2013 for his "significant contribution to strengthening cooperation in the energy sector."

Despite his ironic remarks in Vladivostok, Putin held out hope for better relations with Tillerson.

"I hope that the wind of cooperation, friendship, and reciprocity will eventually put him on the right path," Putin added, to cheers from many in the audience.

Based on reporting by AFP, Reuters, and Interfax