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Biden, Putin to meet in-person in Switzerland next month

It will be the first face-to-face meeting between the two world leaders, amid fraying U.S.-Russia relations.
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will meet in-person for the first time since taking office with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva on June 16, the White House announced Tuesday.

The meeting comes as the relationship between the two countries has severely declined amid a number of disagreements, including a recent Russian military buildup near the Ukrainian border, the poisoning and imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, interference in the 2016 and 2020 elections and the SolarWinds hack.

"The leaders will discuss the full range of pressing issues, as we seek to restore predictability and stability to the U.S.-Russia relationship," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that Biden would seek to restore "predictability and stability" to the U.S.-Russia relationship and would discuss with Putin a number of pressing issues including strategic stability, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty on nuclear weapons control, and Ukraine.

Psaki said Biden would also convey his "grave concerns" to Putin over Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a Russia ally, who forced a commercial airline to land in Belarus on Sunday in order to detain an opposition journalist.

Biden indicated earlier this month that he would also discuss with Putin the recent ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline, which shutdown the country's largest gas pipeline and led to a gas shortage in the Southeast. The FBI said that the DarkSide ransomware, a Russian cybercrime gang referred to by the same name, was responsible for the attack.

Although Biden said the Russian government was not directly responsible for the hack, he said that Putin bore "some responsibility to deal with this."

Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, criticized Biden on Tuesday for "rewarding Putin with a summit."

"Instead of treating Putin like a gangster who fears his own people, we're giving him his treasured Nord Stream 2 pipeline and legitimizing his actions with a summit. This is weak," Sasse said in a statement.

Psaki pushed back, saying "we don't meet with people only when we agree."

"We may have forgotten over the last couple of years, but this is how diplomacy works," she added.

Psaki said there were no preconditions agreed to for the meeting. The White House will provide a public readout of the meeting, Psaki said.

Biden has spoken on the phone twice with Putin since taking office. The White House has been discussing the possibility of a meeting between the two leaders for weeks. National security adviser Jake Sullivan met with his Russian counterpart on Monday to discuss the U.S.-Russia summit, according to the White House.

NBC News was first to report that the leaders were likely to meet in Geneva in June.

Geneva has a long history of hosting high-profile diplomatic gatherings. President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet Union leader, met there in 1985 and part of the Iran nuclear deal talks in 2015 were also held there.

Biden is scheduled to attend the Group of Seven summit of world leaders in Cornwall, U.K., from June 11-13, followed by the NATO summit on June 14 in Brussels, his first foreign trip as president. Biden will meet with Putin following those engagements.