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Putin says the United States wants to delay Russia’s development



ST. PETERSBURG, Russia – Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he will try to improve strained relations with the United States at his upcoming summit with President Biden, and accused Washington of trying to stifle Russia’s development.

“We have no disagreements with the United States, we have only one disagreement: their desire to hold back our development,” Putin said Friday at the International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, a leading Russian investment event. “We must try to find ways to settle Russian-American relations.”

The face-to-face meeting between the two leaders, scheduled for June 16 in Geneva, comes amid growing tensions between Russia and the United States. Since taking office, Mr Biden has imposed new broad sanctions against Moscow for alleged wrongdoing, including interference in the 2020 US presidential election, a cyber attack on the US government and corporate computer networks, and the Kremlin̵

7;s alleged attempt to assassinate opposition leader Alexei Navalny. , poisoning him last year – accusations that Moscow denies.

Mr Putin said Russian-American relations were being held hostage to US domestic policy, and that US sanctions against Russia “remained a mystery in many ways”, he said.

The Russian leader said he hoped that one day the impact of US domestic policy on bilateral relations would end, given “both sides’ main interests in at least security, strategic stability and the reduction of weapons dangerous to worldwide. more importantly. ”

Messrs. Biden and Putin are expected to cover a range of topics, including nuclear weapons, climate change and Russia’s alleged efforts to interfere in foreign elections, which Moscow has denied.

In an interview with state television after taking part in the forum, Mr Putin called Mr Biden “a very experienced man who has been in politics all his life”.

“I very much hope that our meeting will be held in a positive direction,” Mr Putin said. However, he said: “I do not expect a breakthrough in Russian-American relations, nothing that could amaze us all with its results.”

The White House said Mr Biden would use the meeting to underscore US support for Ukraine’s sovereignty amid a surge of Russian troops on the border with its smaller neighbor, which the West sees as a bulwark against Russia. The military build-up has reached figures not seen and not seen since just before the Russian invasion of the Ukrainian Crimean peninsula in 2014. Moscow said in April that it had begun withdrawing its forces, but Ukrainian and Western officials said most troops were remained in place.

Clashes between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists continued after Moscow’s large-scale military maneuvers at the border. Georgi Kanchev of the WSJ reports from the front line about a conflict that is seen as a test for the Biden administration. Photo: Anastasia Vlasova for The Wall Street Journal

FBI Director Christopher Rai said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that Russia hides many of the famous users of ransomware. U.S. officials attribute the attack on JBS this week TO,

the world’s largest meat gang selling criminal gang for ransom in Russia.

Mr Putin denied the allegations on Friday.

“It’s just laughable,” he said in a television interview. “There are those who are trying to provoke some new conflicts before our meeting with Biden,” he said.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Friday that Mr Biden expects to discuss Ukraine, cybersecurity – including recent ransomware attacks – and other key issues during his conversation with Mr Putin.

“I don’t think we’re creating this as a meeting that will have a result that will solve every problem or challenge in our relationship,” she told White House reporters.

The Biden administration said the president would raise concerns about Ryanair’s recent diversion from Belarus, where authorities arrested a young activist when the plane landed in Minsk, and Russia’s support for its leader, Alexander Lukashenko.

On Friday, Putin declined to comment on the plane crash, saying he did not want to “assess the political processes taking place in Belarus.”

Mr Putin also told the forum that Russia had completed the construction of the first line of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany. The second line of the project has yet to be completed, and Russian authorities hope to complete the project this year, despite resistance in Washington and Brussels.

US and European officials have repeatedly said the project will increase Moscow’s influence in Europe and weaken Ukraine, which hosts another gas transit network.

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“This is a purely economic, commercial project,” Mr Putin said. “We’ve said that a hundred times, and yet the propaganda makes people dizzy.”

The Kremlin leader said on Friday that Russia could abandon the dollar in its energy trade with Europe and instead use the euro as another possible step to wean the Russian economy off the greenback. His comments come a day after Russia’s finance ministry announced it would completely eliminate $ 186 billion from the National Wealth Fund.

The United States is using the dollar “as an instrument of competition and political struggle, damaging its role as the world’s reserve currency,” Putin said.

The Russian president used his speech at the forum to instruct his government to prepare a way for foreigners to pay for vaccination in Russia against Covid-19, expanding the Kremlin’s efforts to push diplomacy for vaccines.

A woman received the Covid-19 vaccine at a location near Moscow on May 31.


Photo:

Anton Novoderezhkin / Zuma Press

Mr Putin described what he described as politically motivated discrimination by other governments against the Russian vaccine. When Sputnik V was first approved in Russia in August, it faced criticism from Western officials and scientists for its rapid development and initial lack of large-scale clinical trials. The vaccine has not yet been covered by the European Union regulatory body or the World Health Organization, which is still evaluating it.

He also called for new state support for the Russian economy, including loans for small and medium-sized businesses, family assistance and low-interest loans that regional authorities can use to improve their infrastructure.

Russia’s economy shrank by 3% in 2020, the worst decline in more than a decade. Smaller businesses are disproportionately affected by the pandemic, with 60% reporting a crushing impact compared to a third of large companies, the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs said earlier this year.

With the parliamentary elections scheduled for later in 2021, Mr Putin seeks to maintain the support of Russians, who in recent years have faced a decline in real disposable income and a decline in living standards.

Write to Georgi Kanchev at georgi.kantchev@wsj.com and Ann M. Simmons at ann.simmons@wsj.com

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