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Biden-Putin Geneva meeting: White House defends stunted summit as US president sorry for snapping at reporter

Biden apologises to reporter for being ‘short’ after snapping during press conference

US president Joe Biden and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin shook hands after arriving for arrived for a crucial summit in Geneva on Wednesday. Mr Biden said it was “always better to meet face to face”, while Mr Putin said he hoped for a “productive” meeting.

Nuclear stability, cybersecurity and possible prisoner exchanges were on the agenda for the summit, with both sides playing down expectations about how much is likely to be agreed.

The Russian side said the imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny is one area where Mr Putin wouldn’t engage.

Mr Biden has previously called Mr Putin a “killer” and an “autocrat”. But in a softening of the rhetoric in the run-up to the summit, he described his Russian counterpart as “a worthy adversary”.


Wife of Alexei Navalny responds to Vladimir Putin

Yulia Navalnaya joined the fact checkers to pouncing on Russia’s president over claims the opposition leader “deliberately ignored” his probation when leaving the country.

While avoiding saying his name, Putin said “this person” breached Russia’s laws when ignoring his legal obligations to fly to Germany, and knew he would be arrested when returning home.

“This gentleman went abroad for treatment. ... He didn’t register with the authorities. ... He knew that he was then being investigated and he came back deliberately,” Putin said.

Ms Navalnaya posted a photo to Instagram of her husband deliberately ignoring those laws – in a coma on a stretcher - with the sarcastic response:

“I saved a photo for memory of how Alexei deliberately ignored the requirements” of his parole, she wrote, via a translation by The Washington Post.


‘OK, what’s next?’ White House runs defence of shorter than expected summit

After the Geneva summit between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin ended earlier than planned, unnamed administration officials began feeding media its spin on why that was a good thing.

Mr Biden himself told reporters after the summit that he had discussed everything he wanted and “after two hours, we looked at each other like: OK, what’s next?"

Asked by Bloomberg reporter Jennifer Jacobs why the summit lasted only three hours despite being scheduled for up to five hours, the president said they didn’t need to because they had “covered so much”.

“The reason it didn’t go longer, is when the last time two heads of state spent over two hours in direct conversation across the table going into excruciating detail? You may know of a time, I don’t. I can’t think of one,” Mr Biden said.

One person who could think of two heads of state spending more time together is Joe Biden, who said during his first address to the nation that he travelled over 17,000 miles with China’s leader Xi Jinping, spent over 24 hours in private discussions with him, and spoke for two hours when he called to congratulate Mr Biden on his inauguration as president.

An anonymous “senior administration official” told CNN the “extensive” amount of ground covered led to the short bilateral meeting wth Russia’s president.

“This was a very, this is a very focused, practical, nonpolemical discussion,” the official said.

“It wasn’t people reading talking points at each other or just going on monologues about this or that; it was very practically focused on these different, very important issues, and as a result, they covered a lot of ground and some of the ground that we anticipated possibly covering with the full teams, they actually covered in the one plus one.”

The Independent TV can think of an example of when two heads of state spent more time in conversation.

Biden attacks Xi Jinping and other 'autocrats' in joint session address


READ: Biden and Putin joint statement following Geneva summit

“We, President of the United States of America Joseph R. Biden and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, note the United States and Russia have demonstrated that, even in periods of tension, they are able to make progress on our shared goals of ensuring predictability in the strategic sphere, reducing the risk of armed conflicts and the threat of nuclear war.

The recent extension of the New START Treaty exemplifies our commitment to nuclear arms control. Today, we reaffirm the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.Consistent with these goals, the United States and Russia will embark together on an integrated bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue in the near future that will be deliberate and robust. Through this Dialogue, we seek to lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures.”


PUTIN FACT CHECK: Alexei Navalny left Russia unlawfully to seek medical treatment

Vladimir Putin: “This person knew that he was breaching the laws effective in Russia. ... Consciously, I want to underline this, ignoring the demand of the law, this gentleman went abroad for treatment. ... He didn’t register with the authorities. ... He knew that he was then being investigated and he came back deliberately.”

Fact Check: He left the country in a coma, not by choice.

Navalny was taken into custody Jan. 17 when he returned to Russia from five months in Germany where he was recovering from nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin.

Navalny fell severely ill on a domestic flight in August and was taken to a Siberian hospital in a coma. Two days later, after resistance from doctors, he was flown to Germany for treatment, still in a coma. Putin, however, implied that Navalny had made a conscious decision to leave the country. “This citizen went abroad for treatment,” he said.

Authorities later determined that Navalny’s time abroad violated terms of a suspended sentence he had been handed in an embezzlement case that he says was politically motivated.

Nonetheless, he returned to Russia, knowing he faced potential prison time. Navalny is now serving 2½ years in prison for violating his suspended sentence terms.


PUTIN FACT CHECK: US Capitol rioters arrested for political speech

Vladimir Putin: “People came to the U.S. Congress with political demands after the election. Over 400 people have criminal cases opened against them, they’re facing prison terms of 20, or maybe even up to 25 years. They’re being called domestic terrorists and accused of a range of other crimes. Seventy of them were immediately after these events, and only 30 of them are still under arrest, unclear on what grounds.”

Fact check: More than 480 people have been arrested in connection with the attack, mostly on federal charges ranging from unlawfully entering the Capitol to conspiracy. They include more than three dozen members and associates of right-wing extremist groups, like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.

Each of the suspects charged by the Justice Department was arrested based on a criminal complaint signed by a federal judge — which requires investigators to prove they have probable cause the person committed a federal crime — or an indictment handed down by a grand jury.

The cases have attracted media attention, prosecutors have highlighted many of the arrests with press releases and court records in the US are generally public. The Justice Department also set up a website to list the cases it brought against suspects charged in the attack. It contains links to the charging documents against them.

So far, four people charged in the attack have pleaded guilty to federal charges.


PUTIN FACT CHECK: ‘Most cyber attacks from the US'

Vladimir Putin: “From American sources, it follows that most of the cyberattacks in the world are carried out from the cyber realm of the United States. Second place is Canada. Then two Latin American countries. Afterward comes Great Britain. Russia is not on the list of countries from where — from the cyber space of which — most of the various cyberattacks are carried out.”

Fact check: This portrayal defies the record. Putin did not identify the source of the list he cited. But Russian-based digital malfeasance is well established by U.S. officials and security researchers alike. While the U.S., Canada and Britain all engage in cyberespionage, the most damaging cyberattacks on record have come either from state-backed Russian hackers or Russian-speaking ransomware criminals who operate with impunity in Russia and allied nations.

The cyberattacks that have recently done the most damage are from ransomware sowed and activated by Russian-speaking criminal gangs that enjoy safe harbor in Russia and allied nations and whose members have sometimes colluded with Russian security services.

The global ransomware plague that has caused tens of billions of dollars of damage in the past 18 months — hitting a company, hospital, school or other target about every eight minutes — was a major issue for Biden at the summit.

As well, Russian intelligence operatives famously interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election by hacking Democratic email accounts and orchestrating the release of those communications to boost the campaign of Republican Donald Trump and harm his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

Russian military hackers also attacked and briefly shut down portions of Ukraine’s power grid in the winters of 2015 and 2016.

Altogether, the cybersecurity firm Recorded Future estimates there were 65,000 successful ransomware attacks globally in 2020 from all sources.


BREAKING: Osama Bin Laden’s niece trolls Biden with ‘Trump Won’ sign

As President Joe Biden met with Russian president Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, Osama Bin Laden’s niece was outside waving a “Trump Won” flag.

Videos show Noor bin Ladin, 34, standing on a boat in Geneva, Switzerland waving the flag. The 9/11 mastermind’s niece has expressed her support for Donald Trump in the past, and has said she believes he won the 2020 election.

The 9/11 mastermind’s niece has repeatedly expressed her support for Donald Trump


Fauci pushes back on notion that US officials downplayed possibility of Covid lab leak

Dr Anthony Fauci has pushed back on the notion that US officials downplayed the possibility Covid-19 was caused by a Chinese lab leak.

The government’s top infectious disease specialist said that it was a “distortion” to claim that health officials had ruled out the idea that the coronavirus had escaped from a Wuhan laboratory.

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has said that he remains open-minded about the origin of the virus, which has now killed more than 600,000 people in the US.

“If you go back then, even though you lean towards feeling this is more likely a natural occurrence, we always felt that you gotta keep an open mind – all of us,” he told CBS This Morning.

Graeme Massie has the story.

Joe Biden has asked intelligence community to investigate role of Wuhan lab in pandemic


Watch: ‘What are you so afraid of?’ ABC reporter asks Putin

“The organisation you mentioned have publicly called for mass disorder. They have publicly called for breaking the law, called for minors to participate in activities that are against the law,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in response to the question.

ABC correspondent challenges Putin on why his opponents end up dead or in jail

Rachel Scott, a congressional correspondent for ABC News, asked Putin “what are you so afraid of?” regarding his opposition to protests in Moscow and the persecution of Alexei Navalny, who is currently in prison.

Clara Hill has the story.

American reporter asked Russian president about why he was so afraid of Alexei Navalny and other opponents


Biden and Putin claim summit gains but talks end early as tensions remain

Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin ended talks nearly two hours early on Wednesday — suggesting limited progress beyond a statement on the inadmissibility of nuclear war, and that a stormy bilateral relationship between the US and Russia is likely to persist.

The Kremlin chief nonetheless claimed to be happy with a “fruitful” conversation. The presidents had agreed to return ambassadors, he said, and begin discussions on the successor to an agreement on nuclear arms.

“You need to look around and see how wonderful the world is,” Mr Putin said. “How the grown-up leaders of the two world superpowers can meet and make the world a safe home.”

Oliver Carroll reports from Geneva.

Talks between the US and Russian leaders were ‘fruitful’ – but differences remain

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