Putin says relations with Biden “are working and are stable”

MOSCOW (AP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that the Kremlin has “constructive” relations with Washington and expressed hope that mutual interests will ultimately help normalize US-Russian relations.

Putin, speaking at a panel discussion at an international energy conference in Moscow, also said Russia is ready to increase natural gas supplies to help calm nervous energy markets in Europe. , insisting that his country wanted prices to remain stable.

He rejected claims by some European experts and politicians that Russia has blocked gas deliveries and pushed up energy prices. The Russian leader also dismissed criticism of the ongoing nationwide crackdown on dissent and independent media.

Putin has firmly defended a Russian law requiring those who receive foreign funds and engage in unspecified political activity to register as “foreign agents,” describing it as a quid pro quo response to a US law that has been used to target Russian media in the United States. States.

Critics say Russian law has been used to muzzle critical media because the “foreign agent” stigma has strong pejorative connotations and implies tighter government control.

Related video: At an energy conference, Putin said Russia would supply more gas if Europe asked him to

Dmitry Muratov, who won the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for his work as editor-in-chief of independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, questioned whether authorities would designate his newspaper as a “foreign agent”.

When asked on Wednesday if that was a possibility, Putin replied that Muratov shouldn’t worry “if he doesn’t violate Russian law and give an excuse to be named as a foreign agent.”

“But if he tries to protect himself with the Nobel Peace Prize for doing something that violates Russian law, that would mean he was doing it deliberately to gain attention or for some other reason,” the president added. .

Putin also spoke scathingly of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, accusing him of trying “to gain commercial advantage by protecting himself from political activities.” According to his custom, Putin did not name Navalny by name.

Navalny, Putin’s most outright political enemy, was jailed this year after returning to Russia from Germany, where he was recovering from nerve poisoning he attributes to the Kremlin. The Krenlin denies the accusation. He was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison for violating the terms of a suspended sentence of an embezzlement conviction in 2014 which he dismissed as politically motivated.

Commenting on Russian-American relations, Putin said that Russia’s relations with the Biden administration were “quite constructive” and that he had personally developed “stable and functional relations” with President Joe Biden.

“Mutual interests will undoubtedly lead to the normalization of our relations, and the American political establishment will stop speculating on Russian-American relations to the detriment of their own interests,” he said.

Putin added that Russian diplomats and visiting US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland discussed possible additional contacts between the two presidents after their June summit in Geneva.

In comments tweeted by the US Embassy in Moscow, Nuland said she “greatly appreciates the frank and productive examination of US-Russian relations” with Putin’s foreign adviser Yuri Ushakov on Wednesday, adding that ” we remain committed to a stable, predictable relationship.

The Kremlin has yet to say whether Putin will travel to Rome to attend the Group of 20 summit later this month, which Biden is expected to attend.

Asked about Russia’s efforts to develop new weapons, Putin said they came in response to Washington’s decision in 2002 to withdraw from a Cold War-era treaty that banned defenses against them. ballistic missiles. He said the move threatened to undermine Russia’s nuclear deterrence.

He noted that “an arms race is underway,” but added that Russia was ready to discuss its new weapons in arms control talks with the United States.

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