- Russian President Vladimir Putin struck a dark tone following his private discussions with Biden.
- He called talks "productive" but laid full blame for the adversarial US-Russian relationship on the US.
- "There's no happiness in life," Putin said. "There's only a mirage on the horizon."
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Russian President Vladimir Putin struck a dark tone during his lengthy, rambling press conference following nearly four hours of talks with President Joe Biden in Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday.
When asked whether the meeting had helped build trust between the leaders, Putin turned philosophical.
"There's no happiness in life," Putin said. "There's only a mirage on the horizon, so we'll cherish that."
He added, "but I believe there's a spark of hope in [Biden's] eyes."
The Russian leader told reporters that it was "difficult to say" whether the meeting would change relations between the two countries and blamed the US for the adversarial nature of the ties. But Putin called Biden a "balanced and professional man" and said their discussions were "productive."
"Everything to do with the deterioration of our mutual relations was initiated not by us but by the USA," he said.
Putin is a former KGB operative who has ruled Russia for 20 years, during which time he's believed to have become a billionaire; some guess he's one of the world's richest people. Certainly, his reported taste for expensive watches, yachts and fleets of aircraft would be far out of reach for most Russians, who earn an average monthly wage of around 51,100 Rubles, or $700.
-Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) June 16, 2021
Putin spent much of the press conference deflecting criticism of Russia over its remarkable crackdown on dissent and the poisoning and imprisonment of Alexei Navalny.
The Russian leader justified the Kremlin's effort to squash opponents by demonizing the Black Lives Matter movement and comparing it to the US government's prosecution of people involved in the January 6 insurrection.
When questioned about these remarks later during a separate solo press conference, Biden said, "That's a ridiculous comparison."
Both leaders generally portrayed the talks as a first, modest step in making progress on a narrow set of issues that the US and Russia could potentially see eye-to-eye on – with strategic stability (nuclear arms control) at the top of the list.
But they also made clear that the summit in no way represented a total reset of US-Russia relations.
Putin said Biden did not use the meeting as an opportunity to invite him to the White House, while Biden said he was "not confident" the Kremlin would drastically change its behavior.