President Joe Biden signaled an openness to swapping cybercriminals with Russia ahead of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.
“Yes, I’m open to, if there’s crimes committed against Russia that, in fact, people committing those crimes are being harbored in the United States, I’m committed to holding them accountable. I was told as I was flying here that he said that. I think that’s potentially a good sign of progress,” Biden said at a post-G-7 summit press conference in the United Kingdom on Sunday.
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Putin had raised the possibility during an interview over the weekend.
“If we agree on the extradition of criminals, then Russia will naturally do that but only if the other side, in this case, the United States, agrees to the same and will also extradite corresponding criminals to the Russian Federation,” Putin said according to Russian news agency TASS.
“In an overwhelming majority of cases, they are equitable. Both sides assume equal commitments,” he continued.
Biden is expected to raise the issue of Russia-based ransomware attacks with Putin during their summit, the White House said after critical infrastructure in the U.S. fell victim to another attack.
A recent ransomware assault shut down the U.S.-based meat plants of the world’s largest meatpacker, Brazil-based JBS. The White House said the hack was likely carried out by a criminal group based in Russia.
Pressed at the Sunday news conference on why Putin has not changed his behavior after waves of U.S. sanctions, Biden replied with a laugh. “He’s Vladimir Putin.”
Biden will hold a solo press conference in Switzerland after his meeting with Putin.
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“While we are still finalizing the format for the meeting with President Putin and his delegation, we can confirm a few details, including the plan for both a working session and a smaller session, as well as a solo press conference by President Biden following the meeting,” a White House official said.
Biden’s meeting with Putin will happen Wednesday and be the culmination of his Europe trip. Biden before then is participating in summits with the United Kingdom, the G-7, NATO and the European Union.
Biden held a bilateral press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday morning and did the same with United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson Thursday.
Joint press conferences are often used to show unity between foreign leaders.
On Sunday, Biden faced questions about why he was having a solo press conference after the Putin meeting.
“I don’t mean to suggest that the press should not know, but this is not a contest about who can do better in front of a press conference or try to embarrass each other,” Biden said.
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Biden and Putin now face choices about how and when to restart a dialogue over arms control priorities, even as Biden faces pressure from Congress on China’s growing military might and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
Despite its importance, the arms control issue may get overshadowed at the Biden-Putin summit, given heightened U.S. focus on ransomware attacks, alleged Russian interference in U.S. elections, Russia’s military buildup on Ukraine’s border and allegations that the Kremlin was behind the SolarWinds hacking campaign.
Fox News’ Tyler Olson and Brooke Singman and the Associated Press contributed to this report.