Joe Biden has met with Vladimir Putin for the first time since becoming president – and since the US leader famously branded his Russian counterpart a “killer”.
Body language was notably frosty as the pair entered a Geneva villa for talks.
Before media was ushered out of the meeting, President Biden was heard to say “It’s always better to be face to face.”
He was also heard saying he looked forward to a discussion that was “more predictable and rational.”
Putin told the US President he wanted the talks to be “productive.”
The two leaders shook hands and then entered the villa where the summit is due to take place after appearing at the entrance festooned with U.S., Swiss, Russian flags following welcoming remarks by Swiss President Guy Parmelin.
The summit meeting follows comments made by the US President, where he branded Putin a “killer” in a TV interview, and saying the relationship between their two countries was “very bad.”
In the ABC interview, which aired in March, President Biden warned Putin would “pay a price” for trying to undermine the 2020 election.
There was reportedly “pushing and shoving” between the US and Russian press corps as the “top spray” appearance got underway – with some reporters left without access in the chaos.
Both have said they hope their talks in a lakeside Geneva villa can lead to more stable and predictable relations, even though they remain at odds over everything from arms control and cyber-hacking to election interference and Ukraine.
“We’re not expecting a big set of deliverables out of this meeting,” a senior U.S. official told reporters, saying the two are expected to talk for four or five hours.
“I’m not sure that any agreements will be reached,” said Putin’s foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov.
Relations have deteriorated for years, notably with Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, its 2015 intervention in Syria and U.S. charges – denied by Moscow – of its meddling in the 2016 election that brought Donald Trump to the White House.
The senior U.S. official said the United States was looking at “areas where working together can advance our national interests and make the world safer.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said whether or not to send back ambassadors would be decided by the two presidents. “Today the presidents will need to determine how to proceed with the heads of the diplomatic missions,” Peskov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
While the issues may be vexing, the surroundings will be serene at Villa La Grange, an elegant mansion set in a 30-hectare (nearly 75-acre) park overlooking Lake Geneva.