Putin and Biden discuss Navalny, Ukraine, cybersecurity in Geneva
Putin and Biden summit in Geneva
The official meeting between the Presidents of the United States and Russia – Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin took place on June 16 in Switzerland, at the Villa La Grange in Geneva. This marked their first official meeting since Joe Biden had taken the office as President of the United States. It is also the first Russian-American summit since Putin’s meeting with former US President Donald Trump in Helsinki in July 2018.
The meeting lasted for almost four hours, first in a “narrow” and then in an “extended” format.
What did the Presidents talk about
According to President Biden’s speech at a press conference after the meeting, several issues have been addressed:
- Cybersecurity – the US President gave Russia a list of 16 strategic facilities that cannot be attacked;
- Human rights – The US President talked about the persecution of the opposition, including Alexei Navalny, and the importance of a free media. Biden also mentioned commented on the restrictions of the work of Radio Liberty;
- Strategic stability – the parties agreed to begin a mutual dialogue on arms restrictions;
- Security of Ukraine – presidents talked about the need to comply with the Minsk agreements;
- Belarus – Biden expressed concern over the situation in the country;
- Prisoner exchange – the US President mentioned the possibility of mutual extradition of detained persons.
Ukrainian Hromadske TV channel report from Geneva:
What did the parties agree on
At the very beginning of his briefing, Vladimir Putin said that he had agreed with Biden on the return of the ambassadors to Moscow and Washington, however, the exact dates remain unknown.
The presidents also agreed to start consultations on nuclear arms control. The text of a joint statement by the presidents on this topic was published on the Kremlin’s official website.
The third treaty on strategic offensive arms is in force between the countries. Its term expired in 2020, but by a joint decision of Putin and Biden in February 2021, it was extended for another five years. However, the treaty still has to be ratified by the Russian State Duma.
“The United States and Russia have a special responsibility for strategic stability in the world, if only because we are the two largest nuclear states … Biden made a timely and necessary decision to extend START-3 until 2024. Of course, the question is, what’s next. We agreed that consultations will begin at the interdepartmental level”, Putin said.
What the parties did not agree on
Ukraine and Belarus
The topic of Ukraine was discussed but not in great detail, Putin said after the meeting. According to him, President Biden agreed with him that the Minsk agreements is the basis for resolving the conflict in Donbass.
On this issue, Putin rejected Kiev’s claims and said that Ukraine would be able to regain control of its borders only after elections are held in Donbass, and Kiev officially recognizes them.
Biden also commented on the current situation in Ukraine in his speech.
“I reaffirmed to Putin my unwavering support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. We also discussed issues concerning Belarus. He does not approve of what happened there, he just has a different point of view on what to do with it”, the US President said at a briefing.
As for the possible accession of Ukraine to NATO, then, according to Putin, this topic was touched upon by a “smear” and “there is nothing to discuss here”.
Human rights, Navalny and the Russian opposition
“I made it clear to Putin that we will raise the issue of human rights, including the issue with Alexei Navalny. We are always expanding the field of human rights, including more and more people … I told Putin that we must have clear fundamental rules of the game that must be adhered to. And we have certain points of contact”, Biden said.
“I told Putin that if Alexei Navalny dies in prison, the consequences for Russia will be devastating”, the US president said.
However, Putin did not accept criticism of the poisoning and subsequent arrest of the leader of the Russian opposition.
“This man knew that he was breaking the Russian law. Consciously – I want to emphasize this – ignoring the requirements of the law, this citizen went abroad for treatment… I suspect that when he arrived, he deliberately wanted to be detained”, Putin said.
In addition, Putin talked a lot about the hostile activities of US-backed organizations in Russia.
“The organization you mentioned (the Anti-Corruption Foundation of Alexei Navalny) publicly called for riots, recruited minors, published instructions on how to make a Molotov cocktail”.
Is Putin a ‘killer’?
At a press conference, Putin also had to comment on Biden’s famous interview, in which the American president agreed that the Russian president was a ‘killer’.
“Biden mentioned the issue of human rights. As for the harsh statements … We all know them, after that Biden called me, we explained our positions, the explanations were satisfactory”, Putin said. He added that people are being tortured and killed both in the United States and in other countries.
Joe Biden was asked at a press conference what exactly he said to Putin after his famous interview.
“My words satisfied him”, Biden repeated in response to a question.
Cyber-attacks and cyber-security
Judging by Biden’s statements, he paid special attention to this issue in a conversation with Putin and even hinted at possible retaliatory actions:
“What would happen if we attacked Russian targets in cyberspace? If we interfered with elections in other countries? This would weaken the position of the country and it weakens the position of Russia, which is trying to maintain its status as a great power. I said that our cyber-security capabilities are very significant. And if necessary, we will respond. Putin knows it. The last thing Putin wants now is a cold war”, the US president said.
Billboards, LGBT flags, graffiti with Navalny
Before the Biden-Putin summit in Geneva, three billboards were installed with the words “Navalny was poisoned by Novichok”, “There is still no investigation into”, “How come, President Putin?”. The posters are inspired by the feature film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, in which the protagonist posted a question to the local sheriff about her daughter’s murder investigation on three billboards.
The billboards were placed on the same street as the graffiti with the leader of the Russian opposition Alexei Navalny, painted by artist Julian Baro a few days ago.
In addition, flags of the LGBT+ community were hung on the house opposite the villa where the summit took place, probably as a sign of protest against the oppression of LGBT+ community in Russia.