In an announcement from the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected an offer from U.S. President Biden to meet in person, at least for the time being, reports Russian state media outlet RT.
Logistical issues are the main reason for rejecting the White House’s offer to meet “in a third country in the coming months,” stated Dmitry Peskov, a government spokesman.
“No, a bilateral meeting, of course, cannot be organized that quickly,” he asserted.
Putin challenged Biden to a one-on-one online debate in March after the American leader called him a “killer” and warned Russia would “pay a price” for its international shenanigans without elaborating.
“I want to propose to President Biden to continue our discussion, but on the condition that we do it basically live, as it’s called,” Putin said. “Without any delays and directly in an open, direct discussion. It seems to me that would be interesting for the people of Russia and for the people of the United States.”
“We could do it tomorrow or Monday. We are ready at any time convenient for the American side,” Putin suggested. Biden declined to debate Putin.
Biden’s offer came during a phone call described as “businesslike,” however, Biden allegedly expressed “concerns” over Russia’s growing military presence on the Ukrainian border. There was no discussion of the ongoing political imprisonment of dissident Alexei Navalny, who activists consider one of Russia’s most pressing ongoing human rights violations.
The White House said, “President Biden emphasized the United States’ unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” during the call, and that he “voiced our concerns over the sudden Russian military build-up in occupied Crimea and on Ukraine’s borders, and called on Russia to de-escalate tensions.”
Peskov declined to discuss reports that the White House was preparing to expel Russian diplomats and impose new sanctions on the country, saying, “for now, we will not be commenting on newspaper reports, and we will be waiting to see if any specific decisions are announced officially.”
Those reports came later on Thursday morning, with the Biden administration announcing the expulsion of ten diplomats in the U.S. as well as sanctions against the Russian regime and many of its intelligence officials. The move marks the first retaliatory measure by the U.S. over hacking operations and Russia’s alleged assistance to former President Donald Trump’s election campaign.
At the press conference, Peskov preemptively condemned any U.S. sanctions and hinted that Russia would respond in kind, saying “we condemn any such measures — we consider them illegal — and, in any case, the principle of reciprocity applies here. Reciprocity that allows us to best ensure our interests are being met.”
The Kremlin has not announced any reciprocal action in response to U.S. sanctions.