Biden says he confronted Putin on Navalny, human rights

GENEVA (BLOOMBERG) - US President Joe Biden said he confronted Russian President Vladimir Putin about human rights violations in Russia at a summit on Wednesday (June 16), including the cases of imprisoned opposition leader Alexey Navalny and two detained Americans.

Biden said he also gave Putin a list of 16 sectors of "critical infrastructure" that should be "off limits" for cyberattacks.

And he said the two leaders agreed to work together to ensure Iran doesn't obtain nuclear weapons and to avoid conflict in the Arctic.

"How could I be the president of the United States of America and not speak about the violation of human rights, I told him," Biden said in a news conference after the meetings in Geneva.

"That's why we're going to raise our concerns about cases like Alexei Navalny."

Biden said he made clear to Putin that if Navalny dies in prison, "the consequences of that would be devastating for Russia."

The two men met to try to defuse tensions that they agreed had reached the highest in years between the former Cold War adversaries.

While officials in both governments had predicted the meetings might stretch four hours or more, the summit wrapped up in about two hours and 38 minutes, according to the White House, not counting a break between the two sessions.

Putin said in his own news conference that the sides would return their respective ambassadors to their posts in Washington and Moscow and that he and Biden had agreed to further talks on arms control, cyber-security and diplomatic ties.

The talks with Biden were "on the whole productive, substantive, concrete and took place in an atmosphere aimed at achieving results, the most important of which was that glimmer of trust," Putin said.

Each side understood the other's red lines on key issues, he said.

Biden said the men also discussed "in detail" steps they can take on arms control, including a "mechanism" to limit "new and dangerous weapons" that could raise the risk of war.

The two leaders issued a joint statement after the summit - first released by the Kremlin - saying that they had agreed to "lay the groundwork for future arms control and risk reduction measures."

The summit "demonstrated that, even in periods of tension, they are able to make progress on our shared goals of ensuring predictability in the strategic sphere, reducing the risk of armed conflicts and the threat of nuclear war," the statement said.

"Today, we reaffirm the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought."

The US president said Putin understands after their summit that Biden would respond if Russia again interferes in American elections.

"Whether I stopped it from happening again, he knows I will take action," Biden said.

"He knows there are consequences."

Biden proposed the meeting in hopes of stabilising the relationship after a decade that has seen Russia attempt to interfere in US elections, annex Crimea from Ukraine, and harbour groups of cyber criminals who have wreaked havoc on key industries across the US and Europe.

Still, US officials entered the meeting with low expectations for a breakthrough - and braced for Putin's penchant for trouble-making on the international scene.