Biden, Putin meet in Geneva for much-anticipated summit, shake hands

U.S. President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin on Wednesday afternoon arrived at the Villa La Grange, an 18th century villa located in a park, for their much-anticipated summit in Geneva, Switzerland.

Biden, Putin, Blinken, Lavrov 
President Joseph R. Bidden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, President Vladimir Putin and foreign minister Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov

Biden and Putin were welcomed by Swiss President Guy Parmelin. They shook hands while appearing briefly before the cameras and entered the mansion for a meeting that is expected to last hours.

“Mr. President of the Russian Federation, Mr. President of the United States of America, On behalf of the Swiss government, I would like to welcome you to Geneva, the city of peace,” President Parmelin said. “It is an honor and a pleasure for Switzerland to host you here for this summit and, in accordance with its tradition of good offices, promote dialog and mutual understanding. I wish you both a fruitful meeting in the interest of your two countries and the world. Best wishes and goodbye.”

It is the first face-to-face meeting between Biden and Putin, and issues are likely to range from cyberattacks to human rights abuses, and from cooperation on nuclear weapons to areas where both leaders do not see eye-to-eye.

In the mansion, Biden and Putin sat in a library with books lining at least three of the walls. The two presidents had a small wooden table in between them, with flowers on the table, and a large globe just behind the table. Large US and Russian flags were erected on each side of the globe.

Biden, who was seated with his legs crossed, had a female interpreter to his right who sat in a chair. To her right, Secretary of State Antony Blinken was seated.

Putin was seated with his hands on his legs. To his left, a female interpreter sat in a chair. To her left was Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Reporters said the media scuffle was the most chaotic, with journalists pushing and shoving, yelling at each other to move but no one did. 

“After just a minute or two, Russian security pulled the red rope separating the media from the leaders back to try to keep them away from the presidents. Russian security yelled at journalists to get out and began pushing journalists. Journalists and White House officials screamed back that the Russian security should stop touching us,” a White House correspondent said.

The correspondent added that “both presidents watched and listened to the media scuffle in front of them. They appeared amused by the scene. At one point, Biden leaned over and spoke to the interpreter and smiled.”

At the end of their meeting, which is closed to press, Biden and Putin will hold separate press conferences. President Putin will be the first leader to hold a press briefing followed by President Biden.

Kristi Pelzel is a Senior White House correspondent for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Kristi also covers the US Department of State and the United Nations. She holds a master's degree from Georgetown University.

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