Putin Says He Wants Better Ties With Biden Despite U.S. Pressure

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he hopes a summit with his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden this month in Geneva will help to improve fraught ties, though he accused Washington of trying to keep his country down.

“We must try to find a way to resolve these relations, they’re at rock bottom today,” Putin said at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on Friday. The main problem is that Moscow’s former Cold War rival “wants to hold back our development and they talk about this publicly,” the Russian leader added.

The two presidents plan to discuss issues ranging from disarmament to global conflicts, terrorism and the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic, he said.

The meeting planned for June 16 in the Swiss city marks the first time the Russian and U.S. leaders will see each other face to face since Biden came to office in January. Despite escalating tensions, both sides have shown an interest in reducing the level of confrontation and negotiating a new nuclear arms pact.

Putin’s aggression toward neighboring countries and his treatment of political opponents have led to a series of U.S. sanctions against Russia. Accusations of interference in the 2016 U.S. election have continued to cast a cloud on the relationship.

The Russian president rejected criticism of a crackdown on critics in his country, saying that the demonstrators who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 to protest Biden’s election had political demands but are facing criminal charges.

“This is double standards, we have to get rid of that,” he said.

Asked about the forced landing of a Ryanair passenger jet flying between Athens and Vilnius by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to detain an opposition journalist, Putin denied Moscow’s involvement but defended the operation to apprehend a wanted individual.

Asked if Russia would force a plane flying over Russia to land if it was carrying a person wanted by law enforcement, Putin replied, “I won’t say.”

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