Can't connect right now! retry
Friday Jun 04 2021

Putin seeks to mend relations with US in summit with Biden

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a plenary session of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg on June 4, 2021. Photo: AFP

  • Face-to-face meeting in Geneva on June 16 comes amid biggest crisis in ties between US, Russia in years.
  • Putin says Washington's policies towards Russia were being shaped "under the influence of internal political processes" in US.
  • Russian president says Moscow and Washington need to find ways to regularise ties.

SAINT PETERSBURG: Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that he will hope to mend Russia's damaged relations with the US when he will hold his first summit with President Joe Biden. 

The face-to-face meeting in Geneva on June 16 comes amid the biggest crisis in ties between the two countries in years, with tensions high over a litany of issues including hacking allegations, human rights and claims of election meddling. 

"We need to find ways to regularise these relations," Putin told the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum, adding that bilateral ties are currently at a "low level".

Read more: US intelligence says Putin likely directed meddling in the 2020 US election

Usually joined at the forum's main session by other world leaders, the Russian president was alone on the stage on Friday with a moderator and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, the emir of Qatar, participating via videolink.

"We have no disagreements with the United States," Putin said. "They only have one disagreement: they want to hold back our development, they talk about it publicly."

Putin said Washington's motives were a "mystery" but that policies towards Russia were being shaped "under the influence of internal political processes" in the United States.

Read more: Russia's Vladimir Putin not ready to recognise Joe Biden as US president

Since taking office in January, Biden has ramped up pressure on the Kremlin, and his comments likening Putin to a "killer" were met with fierce criticism in Moscow.

Pipeline politics

The Biden administration imposed new sanctions over what US authorities say was Russia's role in the massive SolarWinds cyber attack and alleged meddling in the 2020 presidential election.

Washington has also harshly criticised Moscow for the near-death poisoning and subsequent imprisonment of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Putin on Friday signed a law barring "extremist" groups from participating in parliamentary elections, with a court in Moscow holding a hearing next week as it considers whether to assign the label to Navalny's organisations.

Critics have denounced the law as the latest move to crack down on Russia's opposition ahead of elections in September for Russia's lower house State Duma.

Read more: US and Russian presidents Joe Biden, Vladimir Putin hold first phone discussion

The diplomatic crisis with the United States has resulted in a mutual expulsion of diplomats with Moscow prohibiting the US embassy from employing foreign nationals, practically halting its consular services.

Putin vaunted at the forum that the first line of the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany has been completed, despite strong US opposition.

The United States and several European countries have deeply opposed the construction of the pipeline, arguing that it will increase European dependence on Russia for critical gas supplies and increase Moscow´s geopolitical clout.

Russia-US ties 'in crisis'

He also suggested that European nations should pay for Russian gas in euros, rather than dollars, part of a wider effort by Russia to reduce its reliance on the dollar.

Both Russia and the United States have downplayed expectations of any major breakthroughs at the Geneva summit.

"We do not expect any breakthroughs, we do not expect any significant progress," Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies at the forum Friday.

Read more: Joe Biden says China's Xi, Russia's Putin welcome at climate summit April 22

He added, however, that the "very fact of the first contact is important" given that Russia-US relations are "in crisis".

Markus Ederer, the EU ambassador to Russia, said at the forum on Thursday that Moscow's relations with the European Union are also at "the most difficult point" since the Cold War.

"If you listen to what Sergei Lavrov says, you can come to the conclusion that Russia doesn't value relations with the EU," the German diplomat added, referring to Russia's foreign minister.

Read more: Russia vows retaliation as Biden imposes sanctions

The Saint Petersburg International Forum often referred to as Russian Davos, is the country's main showcase for investors and brings together business and political leaders.

It is one of the largest offline events held in Russia and the world since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, although the number of participants was restricted to 5,000, nearly four times less than when it was last held in 2019.