Sun, 01 Aug 2021

The White House says a meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin has ended after about four hours of talks.

Live video of the summit in the Swiss city of Geneva on June 16 showed Biden giving a thumbs up as he left the lakeside villa where the meeting took place.

Both presidents are now expected to hold separate news conferences.

The pair met first in a smaller session and later in a larger meeting that was expanded to include more officials from both sides and which lasted about 65 minutes.

At a post-summit press conference, Putin said there was no hostility during the meeting and that the conversation was 'rather constructive."

'Our assessment of many issues differ, but in my view both sides demonstrated the desire to understand each other and are looking for ways to get closer,' he said.

Putin said he and Biden agreed to return their ambassadors to their posts in a bid to lower tensions, although there was no confirmation from the White House.

Russia's ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, was recalled from Washington about three months ago after Biden described Putin as a killer.

U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan left Moscow almost two months ago after Russia suggested he return to Washington for consultations.

Putin also said Russia and the United States shared a responsibility for nuclear stability, and would hold talks on possible changes to their recently extended New START arms limitation treaty.

The Russian leader dismissed Washington's concerns about the arrest of opposition politician Aleksei Navalny, about Russia's increased military presence near Ukraine's eastern border, and about U.S. suggestions that unidentified Russians are responsible for a series of cyberattacks in the United States.

Putin said Navalny had ignored the law and had known what would happen if he returned to Russia from Germany, where he had received treatment for a near-fatal poisoning inside Russia with a Soviet-era nerve agent. He also accused Kyiv of breaking the terms of a cease-fire agreement with Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Putin said he and Biden discussed the work of RFE/RL, which Putin said had been branded a 'foreign agent' in response to what he said was similar U.S. moves against Russian media.

He said Washington and Moscow would start consultations on cybersecurity, claiming that most cyberattacks on Russia came from the United States.

The summit came with Russian-U.S. relations at a low not seen since the Cold War.

Biden and Putin's first round of talks at Geneva's Villa de la Grange lasted 90 minutes. It included only U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, plus translators.

Biden said going into the meeting that it was a discussion between 'two great powers' and said it was 'always better to meet face to face.' Putin, for his part, said he hoped the talks would be 'productive.'

After finishing their first round of talks, the two met for two more sessions that also involved additional aides and translators.

On the U.S. side, the larger meetings were set to include Blinken, national-security adviser Jake Sullivan, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan, and two Russian experts from the National Security Council -- Eric Green and Stergos Kaloudis.

For the Russian delegation, the larger team included Lavrov, Putin's foreign affairs adviser Yury Ushakov, Lavrov's deputy Sergei Ryabkov, the chief of the General Staff of the Russian military General Valery Gerasimov, Russian Ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov, as well as the Kremlin envoys on Ukraine and Syria and Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

The summit came as Putin continues to consolidate his dominance of the country's political system, squeezing opposition activists like Aleksei Navalny and throttling independent media and NGOs ahead of Russia's September parliamentary elections.

A spokeswoman for Biden, the fifth U.S. president to meet with Putin, said the White House was 'neither seeking to reset our relations with Russia, nor are we seeking to escalate.' But Biden is also taking a sharper tack than his predecessor, Donald Trump.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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