U.S. President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin shook hands at the opening of their eagerly anticipated summit in Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday.
The meeting, which comes in the wake of Biden’s whirlwind visit to Europe to solidify the western alliance, holds at time when both leaders agree that relations between the two powers are at an all-time low.
As the e two leaders sat in a book-lined room at the start of their meeting, Putin said he hoped the talks, expected to last four or five hours, would be “productive”, while Biden told him “it is always better to meet face-to-face”.
The two leaders had shaken hands moments earlier as they posed with Swiss president Guy Parmelin, who welcomed them to Switzerland and the lush lakeside mansion for the summit.
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 maintained that the Russian government has not been involved in any election interference or cyberattacks despite US intelligence showing otherwise.
The Russian leader and his entourage arrived first at the summit site: Villa La Grange, a grand lakeside mansion set in Geneva’s biggest park. Next came Mr Biden and his team.
Biden and Putin were expected to first hold a relatively intimate meeting, joined by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. Each side will have a translator.
After the meeting concludes, Putin is scheduled to hold a solo news conference, with Biden following suit.
The choice of Geneva, following long US-Russian negotiations, recalls the Cold War summit between US president Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in the Swiss city in 1985.