As the meeting got underway, US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin were joined by their top diplomats, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, with the traveling press pool in attendance.
Putin thanked his US counterpart for “the initiative to meet” as the pair sat down ahead of their summit in Geneva on Wednesday.
I know you’ve been on a long journey and have a lot of work,” Putin said.
“Still the US and Russia and US relations have a lot of issues accumulated that require the highest level meeting and I hope that our meeting will be productive,” he added.
Biden smiled once as Putin spoke, but the leaders were largely stone-faced. The two exchanged rare eye contact, but Putin largely looked down and was slouched in his chair.
Putin said, via translator, expressed hopes that the meeting will be “productive.”
Biden suggested they would work on areas of “mutual interest.”
Largely, however, the meeting was inaudible amid the clicks of cameras and jostling among reporters. One still photographer blocked the shot of multiple cameras for some time.
Biden looked down at some paper at one point.
“Go away please,” a handler said to reporters as the spray concluded.
CNN Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward said that with such a high-stakes summit such as this one, “everyone is pouring over the details of who looks like what and who’s conceding and who’s winning.”
But she added, “It’s really important for them now to be able to close the door on journalists and have a really serious and substantive conversation.”