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Biden, Putin conclude Geneva summit after hours of talks

At Geneva summit, Russian and US leaders agree to reinstate ambassadors and begin talks on arms control, cybersecurity.

United States President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have agreed to hold talks on arms control and cybersecurity and to return their respective ambassadors to their posts, after a summit in Geneva that Putin described as “constructive”.

The talks on Wednesday were the first meeting between the pair since Biden took office in January, and lasted for several hours.

Prior to the summit, expectations for any substantial breakthroughs had been low, with Moscow and Washington both openly cool on the prospects of significant progress. The pair are currently at odds over a range of issues from arms control and cyber-hacking to election interference and Ukraine.

After the summit, Putin said there was “no hostility” during the “constructive” summit and Biden described the talks as “positive”, as the two leaders held separate press conferences.

Addressing reporters following the meeting, Putin acknowledged that Biden raised human rights issues with him, including the fate of the imprisoned opposition leader Alexey Navalny and the treatment of protesters in Russia. Without naming him, Putin defended Navalny’s prison sentence.

Reporting from Geneva, Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett said Putin deflected the questions and instead tried to focus on domestic unrest in the US, citing the Black Lives Matter protests as the type of “disorder” he was seeking to prevent in Russia. He also criticised the arrests of hundreds of people who stormed the Capitol building in Washington, DC, on January 6.“He really defended his behaviour and seemed to deflect and redirect away from the criticism from the west on the crackdown on democratic freedoms and protesters and said the US is in no position to criticise,” Halkett said.

Biden said later that any comparison between what happened on January 6 and the Black Lives Matter movement was “ridiculous.”

“It’s one thing for literally criminals to break through a cordon, go into the Capitol, kill a police officer and be held accountable, than it is for people objecting, marching on the Capitol and saying you are not allowing me to speak freely.”

Putin also said Moscow and Washington will begin discussions on possible changes to the New START arms control treaty after it expires in 2026, adding that the two countries are responsible for nuclear strategic stability.

Signed in 2010, the New START treaty limits the numbers of strategic nuclear warheads, missiles and bombers that Russia and the United States can deploy.