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Biden and Putin to meet in Geneva next month

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Washington — President Biden will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 16, the White House said Tuesday.

Next month's summit between the two leaders will be their first in-person gathering since Mr. Biden took office and comes as tensions between the U.S. and Russia have escalated. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Mr. Biden and Putin will "discuss the full range of pressing issues, as we seek to restore predictability and stability to the U.S.-Russia relationship."

Psaki told reporters during the White House press briefing she expects Mr. Biden and Putin will discuss the arms control agenda following the extension of the New START Treaty, U.S. support for Ukraine's sovereignty and the situation in Belarus, where a civilian airliner transiting its airspace was forced to divert and land in its capital city, and a journalist was removed from the flight and taken into custody.

The president's upcoming meeting was met with criticism from some Republicans, who said Mr. Biden was rewarding Putin after provocations from Russia. But Psaki pushed back on the characterization and said the summit is a "vital part of defending America's interests."

"This is how diplomacy works," she said. "We don't meet with people only when we agree. It's actually important to meet with leaders when we have a range of disagreements, as we do with Russian leaders. We don't regard the meeting with the Russian president as a reward."

In a phone call with Putin last month, Mr. Biden proposed their face-to-face session take place in a third country.

Since taking office, Mr. Biden has announced a series of actions against Russia in response to a range of issues, including the sweeping SolarWinds cyber breach, interference in the 2020 election and the buildup of Russian troops near the border in eastern Ukraine. Last month, the president announced sanctions targeting 32 Russian entities and individuals, including 10 officials who were expelled from the U.S. 

The Kremlin took its own retaliatory measures against the U.S., expelling 10 American diplomats and banning eight current and former U.S. officials from Russia, including Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, FBI Director Christopher Wray, Attorney General Merrick Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Mr. Biden's summit with Putin will cap his first international trip as president. The White House announced last month the president will travel to the United Kingdom for the G-7 Summit, followed by a trip to Brussels for NATO and U.S.-European Union Summits.

The session next month is not the first in-person meeting for Mr. Biden and Putin. During a visit to the Kremlin in 2011 while serving as vice president, Mr. Biden told Putin, then prime minister, "I don't think you have a soul." The president also told ABC News in an interview in March he thinks the Russian leader is a "killer" and vowed Putin would "pay a price" for Russia's election interference.

Mr. Biden's comment prompted outrage in Russia, and the Kremlin summoned its ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Antonov, to Moscow for consultations on relations with the U.S. John Sullivan, U.S. ambassador to Russia, also returned to Washington last month to meet with the Biden administration and discuss the state of U.S.-Russia relations.

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