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Face to face: Biden, Putin ready for long-anticipated summit


US President Joe Biden and Russia’s Vladimir Putin sit down Wednesday for their highly anticipated summit in Geneva, Switzerland, a moment of high-stakes diplomacy at a time when both leaders agree that U.S.-Russian relations are at an all-time low, according to AP News. 

For four months, the two leaders have traded sharp rhetoric. Biden repeatedly called out Putin for malicious cyberattacks by Russian-based hackers on U.S. interests, a disregard for democracy with the jailing of Russia’s foremost opposition leader and interference in American elections.

The summit is set to begin at around 14:00 (11:00 GMT).

The two Presidents will meet for their first face-to-face as leaders, a conversation that is expected to last four to five hours. In advance, both sides set out to lower expectations.

Biden has said it would be an important step if the United States and Russia were able to ultimately find “stability and predictability” in their relationship, a seemingly modest goal from the president for dealing with the person he sees as one of America’s fiercest adversaries.

“We should decide where it’s in our mutual interest, in the interest of the world, to cooperate, and see if we can do that. (…) And the areas where we don’t agree, make it clear what the red lines are,” Biden told reporters earlier this week.

Arrangements for the meeting have been carefully choreographed and vigorously negotiated by both sides.

Putin and his entourage will arrive first at the summit site: Villa La Grange, a grand lakeside mansion set in Geneva’s biggest park. Next come Biden and his team. Swiss President Guy Parmelin will greet the two leaders.

Biden and Putin first will hold a relatively intimate meeting joined by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Each side will have a translator.

After the meeting concludes, Putin is scheduled to hold a solo news conference, with Biden following suit. The White House opted against a joint news conference, deciding it did not want to appear to elevate Putin at a moment when the president is urging European allies to pressure Putin to cut out myriad provocations.