Putin says Biden meet 'constructive', agreed talks on cybersecurity
- "The conversation was absolutely constructive", Vladimir Putin said
- He said Russia and the US have "agreed to start consultations on cybersecurity"
- Moscow and Washington have agreed for their ambassadors to return, Putin said
"The conversation was absolutely constructive", Putin told reporters after the talks with Biden in Geneva, adding that they "agreed to start consultations on cybersecurity".
Washington has long complained of what it says is persistent and combative Russian cyber activity, namely meddling and interference in elections, that it says have been carried out either by Russian security services or hackers with links to the Kremlin.
Putin said the US had requested information on 10 separate cybersecurity incidents from Russia, and that Washington had received "exhaustive" answers in all cases.
"Russia sent 45 such requests to the United States last year," he said, "and 35 this year."
"And we have not received a single answer," he said, claiming that: "The largest number of cyberattacks in the world are carried out from the US space."
The Russian leader also said that Moscow and Washington agreed for their ambassadors to return. "They will return to their place of work. When exactly is a purely technical question," Putin told reporters after the summit, which lasted about three and a half hours.
Diplomatic relations between Moscow and Washington had all but broken down since Biden took office in January.
After Biden likened Putin to a "killer", Russia in March took the rare step of recalling its ambassador Anatoly Antonov. The US envoy, John Sullivan, likewise returned to Washington.
Despite tensions, the summit at an elegant villa on the shore of Lake Geneva got off to a good start, with the two leaders shaking hands and striking cautiously positive notes.
Biden, who was set to hold a separate press conference later, pressed Putin to replace the combustible US-Russian stand-off with a more "predictable" relationship between "two great powers" capable of agreeing to disagree.
He stressed his desire to take US-Russian relations off their increasingly unstable trajectory, in which Washington accuses the Kremlin of everything from meddling in elections to cyberwarfare.
"It's always better to meet face to face," he told Putin as they met in the villa's library, with a globe placed between them.
"We are trying to determine where we have a mutual interest, where we can cooperate; and where we don't, establish a predictable and rational way in which we disagree -- two great powers," Biden said.
Putin noted at the start of the meeting that "a lot of issues" need addressing "at the highest level" and that he hoped the meeting would be "productive".
At his press conference after the summit, Putin signalled progress in a number of areas, including an agreement to "start consultations on cybersecurity".
Cold War, new problems
Biden's apparent offer of a more understanding -- if not necessarily a friendly relationship -- went a long way toward what Putin is reportedly seeking: increased respect on the world stage.
The reference to the United States and Russia as "two great powers" was sure to please the Kremlin leader, who has dominated his country for two decades, infuriating the West with invasions of Ukraine and Georgia, and often brutal crushing of political dissent.
Expectations were low for anything more than a modest thaw in relations.
Illustrating the frostiness, there was no shared meal during the talks, which were attended by the two countries' foreign ministers and later by an expanded group of officials.
The choice of Geneva recalled the Cold War summit between US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in the Swiss city in 1985.
The summit villa, encircled with barbed wire, was under intense security. Grey patrol boats cruised along the lake front and heavily-armed camouflaged troops stood guard at a nearby yacht marina.
But in contrast with 1985, tensions are less about strategic nuclear weapons and competing ideologies than what the Biden administration sees as an increasingly rogue regime.
Alexei Navalny "knew"
Jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny ignored Russian law when he went to Germany for treatment after a near-fatal poisoning attack last year, Putin said.
"This person knew that he was breaking the law in Russia," Putin said in reference to Navalny violating the conditions of a suspended sentence.
"Consciously ignoring the requirements of the law, he went abroad for treatment," Putin said, accusing Navalny of having "deliberately acted to be detained".
Putin dismissed Washington's concerns over Moscow's growing military presence in the Arctic, saying "the concerns of the American side about militarisation have no basis."
Putin said Russia was not doing "anything new" in the Arctic, and that his country was "restoring the destroyed infrastructure" in the region, adding that Russia intends "to fully adhere to international legal norms," in the Arctic.
Possible prisoner exchange
Putin said that he discussed a possible prisoner swap with US counterpart Joe Biden and that "compromises" may be possible.
"President Biden raised this issue. We discussed it, there may be certain compromises," Putin said. "The Russian foreign ministry and the US State Department will work in this direction."