Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that his first face-to-face meeting with US counterpart Joe Biden was constructive and the two sides had agreed to discuss cybersecurity.

"The conversation was absolutely constructive", Putin told reporters after the talks with Biden in Geneva, adding that they "agreed to start consultations on cybersecurity".

Washington has long complained of what it says is persistent and combative Russian cyber activity, namely meddling and interference in elections, that it says have been carried out either by Russian security services or hackers with links to the Kremlin.

Putin said the US had requested information on 10 separate cybersecurity incidents from Russia, and that Washington had received "exhaustive" answers in all cases.

"Russia sent 45 such requests to the United States last year," he said, "and 35 this year." 

"And we have not received a single answer," he said, claiming that: "The largest number of cyberattacks in the world are carried out from the US space."

Biden's administration brought sanctions against Russia in April in response to the SolarWinds cyberattack that targeted federal organisations and more than 100 US companies.

Biden had also vowed to raise pressure on Russia for harbouring cybercriminals who have been blamed in major attacks on a US oil pipeline and a meat supplier.

Russia denies claims of any involvement with hacking or ransomware gangs.

The US Justice Department's top national security official said Wednesday that the Russian government actively harbours hackers and ransomware extortionists operating from inside the country.

Military presence in the Arctic

In other comments, Putin dismissed Washington's concerns over Moscow's growing military presence in the Arctic. 

"The concerns of the American side about militarisation have no basis," Putin said following the summit meeting, adding that Russia is "restoring destroyed infrastructure" in the region.

Prisoner swap

Putin said that he discussed a possible prisoner swap with Biden and that "compromises" may be possible.

"President Biden raised this issue... We discussed it, there may be certain compromises," Putin said.

"The Russian foreign ministry and the US State Department will work in this direction."

Putin ahead of the summit renewed an offer to swap prisoners in "matters of a humanitarian nature" after Biden said US citizens detained in Russia would be on the agenda.

Former US marine Paul Whelan, who in 2020 was jailed by Russia for 16 years for espionage, had urged Biden to arrange an exchange and said in a recent interview he was victim of hostage diplomacy.

Another US citizen, Trevor Reed, was sentenced to nine years in prison in 2020 on charges of assaulting Russian police officers while drunk.

Moscow could be eyeing the return of a notorious Russian arms dealer imprisoned by the United States, Viktor Bout, and a contract pilot and alleged drug trafficker, Konstantin Yaroshenko.

Bout, known as the "Merchant of Death," is thought to be the inspiration for the title character in the 2005 film "Lord of War" starring Nicholas Cage.

His elderly mother has appealed to both Biden and Putin to negotiate her son's release so she can see him again while still alive.

Yaroshenko was convicted in 2011 of smuggling drugs into the United States. He was extradited from Liberia in what the Kremlin denounced as a kidnapping.



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