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Biden summit offer hailed in Moscow as win for Putin

  • Finland hosted the last summit between Russian and US leaders in 2018, when Putin met with then-president Donald Trump.
15 Apr 2021

MOSCOW: US President Joe Biden's invitation to Vladimir Putin to hold a summit was being hailed in Moscow Wednesday as a sign that Washington had blinked first in the showdown with Russia over Ukraine.

With indications that work is already under way for a potential meeting in Finland, Russian officials were crowing that Moscow is finally being treated with the respect it deserves.

"It was a very important step forward... news on a global scale," said Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the Russian parliament's upper house.

Biden offered to hold the summit on neutral ground, during a call with Putin on Tuesday, as tensions between Russia and the West spike over Ukraine.

A Russian troop build-up on the border with Ukraine -- where Kiev's forces have been battling pro-Russian separatists since 2014 -- has sparked widespread alarm and warnings from NATO.

Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed in a phone call Wednesday to call on Russia to reduce the number of troops on the border, saying it would help bring a "de-escalation" of the tensions.

Speaking to Putin a day earlier, Biden reiterated US support for Kiev's pro-Western government but also offered to hold his first face-to-face talks with Putin on "the full range of issues facing the United States and Russia".

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that the offer would be "studied", but Putin spoke quickly on Tuesday night with Finland's President Sauli Niinisto, who said in a statement that the two had discussed the call with Biden and "the planned meeting of the two presidents".

Finland hosted the last summit between Russian and US leaders in 2018, when Putin met with then-president Donald Trump.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev set the tone in his reaction to news of the talks, comparing the summit to his meetings with Ronald Reagan in Geneva and Reykjavik in the 1980s.

Others were also keen to frame it as a return to Cold War-era meetings of superpowers.

"The good news is... that the leaders of the two largest nuclear powers have confirmed their readiness to cooperate," Leonid Slutsky, the foreign affairs chief in Russia's lower house, told reporters.