Putin summit wraps up early as WH again leaves US press in dark
16th June 2021

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President Biden’s high-stakes summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin wrapped up earlier than anticipated — with American reporters left in the dark and initially dependent on Russia’s foreign ministry for information on the discussions.

The talks ended at 5:05 p.m. local time after an introductory sit down at 1:39 p.m. — meaning that the entire summit lasted fewer than four hours, rather than the four-five hours predicted by the White House.

A closed-door meeting between Biden, Putin, Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov lasted for about 90 minutes.  After a short break, a second and larger meeting lasted 65 minutes and featured just one session, rather than two as planned.

What happened inside a set of two meetings was not immediately clear. Press was not allowed in the room, though Russia’s foreign ministry tweeted a photo giving journalists a glimpse of US and Russian officials attending the second, larger meeting.

Putin, followed by Biden, are slated to give solo press conferences to describe the talks.

The summit kicked off with a handshake and then introductory remarks from Biden and Putin in the library of the stately Villa de la Grange in front of the press. But Biden’s words were drowned out by a scuffle between US reporters and Putin’s guards that appeared to confuse the US president.

Biden seemed to put the US and Russia on equal footing, saying they were both “great powers” and he looked at a US journalist and nodded when asked if he trusted Putin, though White House aides scrambled to deny that’s what he meant by nodding.

Biden and Putin “appeared amused” as Russian agents roughed up reporters in the room, according to a pool report.

Biden’s inaugural trip abroad to three European countries has seen severe limits on press access.

On Monday, the White House scrapped a similar “pool spray” at the start of Biden’s meeting with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the NATO summit in Belgium. Frustrated US reporters, waiting in a hallway for 112 minutes, were left dependent on Turkey’s government, which regularly imprisons journalists, for information.

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