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‘There has been no hostility,’ Putin says, and denies Russian role in cyberattacks. | Press "Enter" to skip to content

‘There has been no hostility,’ Putin says, and denies Russian role in cyberattacks.

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President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, emerging from his first meeting with President Biden, said Wednesday that the talks had gone well — but his other comments made clear that tensions between the countries are unlikely to ease significantly any time soon.

“There has been no hostility,” Mr. Putin declared. “On the contrary, our meeting took place in a constructive spirit.”

Addressing reporters at the Geneva villa where the meeting took place, the Russian president said: “Both sides expressed their intention to understand each other and seek common ground. The talks were quite constructive.”

Mr. Biden, faced with a surge of cyberattacks that originated in Russia, had made clear that he intended to give Mr. Putin a choice: Cease the attacks and crack down on the cybercriminals operating from Russian territory, or face reprisals.

But after the meeting, Mr. Putin essentially denied that the Russia was the source of the hacking onslaught and said the United States was the biggest offender.

His turning of the tables suggested that Mr. Putin was not interested in discussing what Mr. Biden said was a key objective of the talks: to establish some “guardrails” about what kinds of attacks on critical infrastructure are off limits in peacetime.

Mr. Putin did suggest that there had been some kind of agreement to establish expert groups to examine these issues, but American officials fear that would be an effort to tie the questions up in committees rather than set clear red lines.

Mr. Putin also took a hard line on human rights in Russia.

He said Mr. Biden had raised the issue, but struck the same defiant tone on the matter in his news conference as he has in the past. The United States, Mr. Putin said, supports opposition groups in Russia in order to weaken the country, since it sees Russia as an adversary.

“If Russia is the enemy, then what organizations will America support in Russia?” Mr. Putin asked. “I think that it’s not those who strengthen the Russian Federation, but those that contain it — which is the publicly announced goal of the United States.”

There was little expectation that the summit would radically reframe the relationship, but supporters and critics of Mr. Putin hope that it will at least stop its downward spiral. And there is the sense that Mr. Biden is prepared to engage broadly with Mr. Putin despite his concerns about the treatment of the jailed opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny.

Critics, including an aide to Mr. Navalny, cast the summit, which comes ahead of Russian parliamentary elections and as Mr. Putin faces hits to popularity at home, as little more than a photo op.

“He does not plan on signing any agreements,” the aide, Leonid Volkov, wrote on Facebook. “He’s coming, essentially, for one photo, literally like fans dream of a selfie with their idol.”

But even some Putin critics inside Russia were hoping that he and Mr. Biden would find some common ground.

“If they manage to come to agreements on certain things, and there’s a sense in the Kremlin that this was a first step, then this could provide a big incentive to reduce persecution inside the country,” said Ivan I. Kurilla, an expert on Russian-American relations in St. Petersburg and a frequent Kremlin critic. “If Biden comes to Geneva and reads Putin a lecture about human rights and goes home, then I suspect Putin will do everything the other way around.”


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