Russian President Vladimir Putin has set a tough tone for his upcoming summit with US President Joe Biden, accusing Washington of trying to contain Russia and citing its response to the deadly January 6 attack on the Capitol as a manifestation of the West’s double standards.
Speaking at an economic forum in St Petersburg, Mr Putin said arms control, global conflicts, the coronavirus pandemic and climate change were among the issues he and Mr Biden would discuss at their June 16 summit in Geneva.
“We need to find ways of looking for a settlement in our relations, which are at an extremely low level now,” Mr Putin said on Friday (local time).
“We don’t have any issues with the US. But it has an issue with us. It wants to contain our development and publicly talks about it. Economic restrictions and attempts to influence our country’s domestic politics, relying on forces they consider their allies inside Russia, stem from that.”
He voiced hope the meeting would help ease tensions with Washington. Russia-US ties have sunk to post-Cold War lows over Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, accusations of Russian interference in elections in the US and other Western nations, and cyberattacks that US officials allege had Russian origins.
Mr Putin reiterated that Russia rejected accusations of interfering in US presidential elections, and he spoke critically of the US response to the Capitol attack, which took place as Congress prepared to certify that Mr Biden had defeated then-president Donald Trump in November.
“They weren’t just a crowd of robbers and rioters. Those people had come with political demands,” he said.
Mr Putin pointed out the heavy charges against hundreds of participants in the attack were filed even as the US and its allies strongly criticised Belarus’ crackdown on anti-government protests. He charged that even as the West had criticised Russian authorities for a harsh response to anti-Kremlin demonstrations, protesters in Europe had faced an even tougher police response.
At a later videoconference with the heads of international news agencies, Mr Putin said he did not expect any “breakthrough results” from the summit with Mr Biden. The United States and Russia had some corresponding interests, he said, “despite certain disagreements. These disagreements are not the result of Russian actions.”
At the earlier session, Mr Putin praised Mr Biden as a “very experienced statesman who has been involved in politics for his entire life … and a very prudent and careful person. I do hope that our meeting will be positive.”
He also took time to deride the allegations that Russian hackers targeted a US pipeline and a meat plant.
“I do hope that people would realise that there hasn’t been any malicious Russian activity whatsoever,” he said. “I heard something about the meat plant. It’s sheer nonsense.
We all understand it’s just ridiculous. A pipeline? It’s equally absurd.”
He alleged the hacking accusations were aired by those who try to “provoke new conflicts before our meeting with Biden”.