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16 Jun, 2021 11:24

Presidents Putin & Biden meet in Geneva’s Villa La Grange for their first bilateral summit, with hours of discussion ahead

After weeks of anticipation, Russian President Vladimir Putin has met his American counterpart, Joe Biden, in the Swiss city of Geneva, ahead of around four or five hours of planned discussion on a wide range of topics and issues.

The bilateral summit marks the first time that the two have met since Biden took office in January. The encounter comes shortly after Putin told America's NBC News, earlier this week, that the Moscow-Washington relationship had “deteriorated to its lowest point in recent years.”

Although this is their first bilateral summit as heads of state, they have met in the past, having spoken face-to-face in 2011 when Putin was Russia’s prime minister and Biden was the US vice president.

Wednesday's discussions will take place at Villa La Grange, an 18th-century villa overlooking Lake Geneva . Due to the high-profile nature of the summit, security in the city has been beefed up, with access to the banks of the world famous lake, as well as the Mont Blanc Bridge, being restricted.

The summit will begin with a smaller meeting, attended by just the presidents, alongside Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. After that, discussions will take place between two wider delegations. There is no plan for a working meal or a private one-on-one conversation between the heads of state.

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Putin, who flew from Sochi this morning, is due to fly home in the evening following the summit’s conclusion.

Ahead of today’s events, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian TV on Wednesday morning that he has been happy to hear Washington's recent rhetoric surrounding the gathering, calling it “undeniably positive.”

According to Yury Ushakov, a Russian diplomat and long-time aide of Putin on foreign policy matters, the two heads of state will talk about a wide range of topics, including the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Eastern Ukraine, and the fight against cybercrime. They are also due to discuss other areas for cooperation, such as climate change, the Arctic, and the Middle East.

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Aside from Ushakov and Peskov, Russia's delegation includes Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, military Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov and US Ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov.

Other area-specific experts have also been brought along, including Special Presidential Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev and Deputy Chief of Staff Dmitry Kozak, whose primary focus is Ukraine.

Biden's entourage includes Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, as well as US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan.

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