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Biden, Putin shake hands to kick off Geneva summit

Biden, Putin shake hands to kick off Geneva summit
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Biden, Putin shake hands to kick off Geneva summit

Highlights

US President Joe Biden and Russia's Vladimir Putin have arrived on Wednesday at the lush lakeside Swiss mansion for their highly anticipated summit, a moment of consequential diplomacy at a time when both leaders agree that relations between their countries are at an all-time low.

Geneva: US President Joe Biden and Russia's Vladimir Putin have arrived on Wednesday at the lush lakeside Swiss mansion for their highly anticipated summit, a moment of consequential diplomacy at a time when both leaders agree that relations between their countries are at an all-time low.

The two leaders shook hands while appearing briefly before cameras with Swiss President Guy Parmelin, who welcomed them to Switzerland, and then entered the mansion for what is expected to be four or five hours of talks.

For months, they have traded sharp rhetoric. Biden has repeatedly called out Putin for malicious cyberattacks by Russian-based hackers on US interests, a disregard for democracy with the jailing of Russia's foremost opposition leader and interference in American elections.

Putin, for his part, has reacted with whatabout-isms and obfuscations - pointing to the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol to argue that the US has no business lecturing on democratic norms and insisting that the Russian government hasn't been involved in any election interference or cyberattacks despite US intelligence showing otherwise. Now, the pair are meeting for the first time face-to-face as leaders. In advance, both sides set out to lower expectations.

Even so, Biden said it was an important step if the United States and Russia were able to ultimately find "stability and predictability" in their relationship, a seemingly modest goal from the president for dealing with the person he sees as one of America's fiercest adversaries. "We should decide where it's in our mutual interest, in the interest of the world, to cooperate, and see if we can do that," Biden told reporters earlier this week. "And the areas where we don't agree, make it clear what the red lines are."

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that no breakthroughs were expected and that ``the situation is too difficult in Russian-American relations.''``

"However, the fact that the two Presidents agreed to meet and finally start to speak openly about the problems is already an achievement," Peskov said ahead of the summit's start.

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