MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin
set a tough tone for his upcoming summit with US President Joe Biden
on Friday, accusing Washington
of trying to contain Russia and citing the West's double standards in response to the deadly Jan. 6 attack
on the Capitol
Putin said at a St. Petersburg economic forum that arms control, global conflicts, the coronavirus pandemic
, and climate change
would be among the issues he and Biden would discuss during their June 16 summit in Geneva.
“We must find ways to find a resolution in our relations, which are at an all-time low right now,” Putin said.
“We don’t have any issues with the United States
,” he continued, “but it has an issue with us. It wants to contain our development and publicly talks about it. Economic restrictions and attempts to influence our country’s domestic politics
, relying on forces they consider their allies within Russia, stem from that.”
He expressed hope that the meeting would help to ease tensions with Washington. Russia-US relations have plummeted to post-Cold War lows as a result of Moscow's 2014 annexation of Ukraine
's Crimean Peninsula, accusations of Russian meddling in elections
in the United States and other Western nations, and cyberattacks attributed to Russians, according to US officials.
Putin reiterated Russia's denial of meddling in US presidential elections, and he criticized the US response to the Capitol attack, which occurred as Congress
prepared to certify Biden's victory over then-President Donald Trump
“They weren’t just a bunch of robbers and rioters; those people
came with political demands,” he explained.
Putin noted that the heavy charges against hundreds of attack participants were filed even as the United States and its allies strongly criticized Belarus
’ crackdown on anti-government protests, and he charged that while the West has criticized Russian authorities for a harsh response to anti-Kremlin demonstrations, protesters in Europe have faced an even tougher police
response, with some suffocating.
During a later videoconference with the heads of major international news
agencies, Putin stated, "I don't expect any breakthrough
results" from the Biden summit, adding that the US and Russia have some overlapping interests "despite certain disagreements, which are not the result of Russian actions."
In response to a question from Associated Press
President and CEO
, Putin returned to the theme of blaming the US for bad relations.
“We are not taking steps first — I am referring to the steps that have deteriorated our relations; it was not us who introduced sanctions
against us; it was the United States who did so on every occasion and even without grounds, just because our country exists,” he said through a translator.
He also criticized the US for being overconfident, drawing parallels with the Soviet Union.
“You know what the problem is? I will tell you as a former citizen of the former Soviet Union. The problem of empires is that they believe they are so powerful that they can afford small errors and mistakes,” he said. “But the number of problems is growing. There comes a time when they can no longer be dealt with. And the United States, with a confident gait, a firm step, is going straight aloft.
During a previous meeting, Putin praised Biden as a “very experienced statesman who has been involved in politics his entire life... and a very prudent and careful person... I do hope that our meeting will be positive.”
He also took the opportunity to dismiss allegations that Russian hackers
targeted a U.S. pipeline
and a meat plant, which had hung over the summit.
“I hope people realize that there hasn’t been any malicious Russian activity whatsoever,” he said. “I heard something about the meat plant. It’s nonsense. We all understand it’s ridiculous. A pipeline? It’s equally absurd.”
“The US special services should track down those ransom seekers. It is certainly not Russia that would extort money
from some company. We don’t deal with chicken or beef. It’s plain ridiculous,” Putin said.
He claimed that the hacking
allegations were made by those attempting to “incite new conflicts ahead of our meeting with Biden,” and he added that some in the United States questioned Russian involvement in the hacks
“It means that there are people within American society, the media
, and the political class who want to find ways to repair US-Russian relations,” he explained.
On other issues, Putin praised Russia's response to the COVID-19
pandemic and called for a stronger global response to global warming as he sought to strengthen Russia's international standing.
In his remarks to the forum, Putin praised the efficacy of Russian-designed vaccines
while criticizing “politically motivated bans” on their purchase in some countries.
Russia boasted last year that it was the first country in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine
, but it has since moved slowly in administering shots to its population, which has been attributed in part to public skepticism about the vaccines in the face of controversial signals from the authorities.
Experts question whether Russia will be able to meet the government's target of vaccinating more than 30 million of the country's 146 million people by mid-June, and nearly 69 million by August.
Putin urged Russians to get the shots as soon as possible, and he invited foreign visitors to Russia to get vaccinated, saying he would direct the government to make that possible.
He also emphasized the importance of bolstering the international response to climate change, pointing out that melting permafrost has posed a significant challenge to Russia's Arctic regions.
“We have entire cities built on permafrost,” he said, “and what happens if it all melts?”
Putin stated that the first of two lines of the proposed Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Germany
has been laid, with only welding remaining to complete its construction, and that the second line will follow soon.
The US has strongly opposed the Russian pipeline's construction, but the Biden administration
chose not to punish the German company in charge of the project while announcing new sanctions against Russian companies and ships last month, which the Kremlin hailed as a "positive signal" ahead of the Putin-Biden summit.
The Russian president praised the project as more economically viable than an existing pipeline through Ukraine, dismissing Ukrainian and Western accusations that it is intended to deprive Kyiv of transit fees.
Putin stated that Russia will continue to pump 40 billion cubic meters of gas
per year through Ukraine in accordance with a five-year contract, and that this could be extended if Ukraine demonstrates “goodwill.”
Following Moscow's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and its support for separatist insurgents in eastern Ukraine, Russia and Ukraine have been locked in a tense tug of war.
Putin criticized the United States' use of the dollar as a political tool, claiming that "its use as an instrument of competition and political struggle has harmed its role as the world reserve currency."
Russia announced Thursday that it will completely withdraw the US dollar from its National Wealth Fund and convert the dollar-denominated assets to euros, yuan, and gold. Russia has long sought to reduce the dollar's share of its hard currency reserves in response to US sanctions and tensions with Washington and its allies.