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Kremlin aide says Putin-Biden summit possible in June

A top aide to Vladimir Putin said Sunday that a possible summit between the Russian leader and his US counterpart Joe Biden could take place in June.

[FILE] (COMBO) This combination of file pictures created on March 17, 2021 shows US President Joe Biden (L) speaking at White House in Washington, DC on March 15, 2021, and Russian President Vladimir Putin speakins at a press conference in Moscow on March 5, 2020. – The US announced economic sanctions against Russia on April 15, 2021, and the expulsion of 10 diplomats in retaliation for what Washington says is the Kremlin’s US election interference, a massive cyber attack and other hostile activity. President Biden’s executive order “sends a signal that the United States will impose costs in a strategic and economically impactful manner on Russia if it continues or escalates its destabilizing international action,” the White House said. (Photos by Eric BARADAT and Pavel Golovkin / various sources / AFP)

A top aide to Vladimir Putin said Sunday that a possible summit between the Russian leader and his US counterpart Joe Biden could take place in June.

Biden earlier this month offered a meeting between the two leaders in a neutral country, as tensions between Russia and the West escalated sharply over the conflict in Ukraine, new sanctions on Moscow and the health of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

The Kremlin has said it is still considering the offer, but on Sunday, Putin’s top foreign policy aide, Yury Ushakov, said that planning is underway.

“June is being named, there are even concrete dates,” Ushakov said on state-run television channel Rossiya-1.

On the same show, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov repeated a statement by his ministry earlier this month that the summit offer “was received positively and is currently under consideration”.

The White House on Friday said that in June Biden would be attending the G7 summit in Britain and the NATO and EU summits in Brussels, but it did not say whether Biden would also seek to include a potential summit with Putin during the trip.

Austria and Finland have expressed interest in hosting a possible meeting between the two leaders.

Tensions between Moscow and Washington have cooled since Friday, with Russia beginning to withdraw its armed forces that had been on drills near Ukraine and Navalny ending his hunger strike.

The military drills and Russia’s massing of troops on Ukraine’s northern and eastern borders as well as on the Crimean peninsula it annexed in 2014 had sparked alarm in the West and calls by Biden for Moscow to back down.

Biden also warned Russia that it would face repercussions if Navalny died in jail, after the opposition figure launched a hunger strike demanding proper medical treatment.

The Kremlin earlier this month said it was good that Biden was seeking dialogue with Putin, but it criticised Washington for expelling 10 Russian diplomats and imposing new sanctions for alleged election interference and hacking.

Moscow responded by expelling ten US diplomats and barring a number of Biden administration officials from entering Russia.

As tensions soared, Washington’s envoy to Moscow John Sullivan returned to the United States this week for consultations after Moscow recommended that he temporarily leave.