Biden and Putin hold high-stakes Geneva summit

By Peter Wilkinson, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Aditi Sangal, Melissa Macaya, Nick Thompson, Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 0841 GMT (1641 HKT) June 17, 2021
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4:23 p.m. ET, June 16, 2021

Biden and Putin take first photo and shake hands as high-stakes summit gets underway

From CNN's Kevin Liptak in Geneva


US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin just took their first photo at the historic meeting at Villa la Grange in Geneva as the summit gets underway.

The two presidents stood outside the villa with the Swiss President Guy Parmelin, who made short remarks welcoming the two leaders. Parmelin said he wished the leaders a "fruitful dialogue in the interest of your two countries and the world."

Biden and Putin listened as his remarks were translated, first in Russian and then English. 

The Swiss leader bid them farewell, and Biden and Putin came together. 

They shook hands, looked at each other, and smiled. Putin turned toward the press and smiled some more, before turning around as the two presidents entered 18th century villa for their first round of meetings.

Both leaders have recently acknowledged a low point in relations between the two nations. 


7:42 a.m. ET, June 16, 2021

Why it's surprising Putin showed up on time

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez and Jeremy Diamond

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived on-time to his summit in Geneva with US President Joe Biden — a rare occurrence for a world leader who is notorious for arriving late to similar gatherings.

Putin is known for arriving late to important events — considered a power play by some observers. And that pattern of tardiness has extended to meetings with former American presidents.

For example, Putin set his last summit with a US president — alongside then-President Donald Trump — about 45 minutes behind schedule after his late arrival. And in 2009 and 2012, Putin showed up about 40 and 45 minutes late for his meetings with then-President Barack Obama.

He also kept German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych waiting about four hours each in 2014 and 2012, respectively. Even the Pope waited more than an hour for Putin to show up at the Vatican in 2015.

4:20 p.m. ET, June 16, 2021

Biden welcomed to high-stakes meeting

President Joe Biden is greeted to the summit site by Swiss President Guy Parmelin.
President Joe Biden is greeted to the summit site by Swiss President Guy Parmelin. Pool

Similarly to Putin's arrival, US President Joe Biden has just been welcomed to the summit site by the Swiss President, Guy Parmelin.

The pair also paused at the entrance to pose for photographers before heading inside.

We are expecting to see all three leaders reemerge to stand together and greet each other formally, CNN Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward says.

7:20 a.m. ET, June 16, 2021

Biden en route to summit site

US President Joe Biden is traveling by motorcade to Villa La Grange, the site of his first face-to-face summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He is the fifth American president to have a meeting with the Russian leader. And it comes about the same time in his presidency as his predecessors opened dialogue with Putin.

4:19 p.m. ET, June 16, 2021

President Putin arrives at summit site

Denise Balibouse/Pool/AFP/Getty Images
Denise Balibouse/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

The Russian motorcade has delivered President Vladimir Putin and his delegation to Villa la Grange.

He was welcomed by Switzerland’s President Guy Parmelin on the mansion's steps where they posed briefly for photographers before heading inside, ahead of US President Joe Biden's arrival.

CNN Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward described Putin as appearing "relaxed" and "jovial."

7:15 a.m. ET, June 16, 2021

Key moments to expect around the Putin-Biden summit today

US President Joe Biden will exchange greetings with Guy Parmelin, President of Switzerland, upon arriving for the summit.

When the leaders have all arrived, Biden, Parmelin and Russian President Vladimir Putin are expected to take a welcome photo.

Biden will then hold a bilateral meeting with Putin, which is expected to go for four to five hours, according to a Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

Biden and Putin are expected to hold separate news conferences after their bilateral talks have concluded.

Biden will then depart Geneva to return to Washington, DC.

4:18 p.m. ET, June 16, 2021

Russia's expectations going into the summit

Analysis from CNN Moscow Correspondent Matthew Chance in Geneva

Russian President Vladimir Putin steps down the stairs from his airplane for the US-Russia summit with US President Joe Biden, at the Geneva Airport, on June 16.
Russian President Vladimir Putin steps down the stairs from his airplane for the US-Russia summit with US President Joe Biden, at the Geneva Airport, on June 16. Alessandro Della Valle/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin has landed in Geneva, and has made his way over to Villa la Grange on the banks of Lake Geneva, a historic 18th century mansion where his summit with Biden will take place. 

Russian expectations for this crucial summit are low, which echoes the framing the White House has been using in recent days. The fact that the meeting is taking place at all is seen as something of an achievement. 

That said, there are areas of common ground: Climate change, arms reduction, various regional conflicts are subjects they could discuss. And we could even see some joint statements signed on some of those issues, according to the Kremlin. 

But with substantial core disagreements in this fraught relationship between the United States and Russia, no one is seriously expecting any solid progress during just one summit. 

There are some areas we are unlikely to see any movement on, including the cyber-attacks against the US emanating from Russia, the military threat that Russia continues to pose to its neighbors – particularly Ukraine, and the subject of Navalny and other opposition activists who have been targeted inside Russia. Ultimately, on these substantial issues, we expect Putin to take a tough line.

4:17 p.m. ET, June 16, 2021

Here are some of the key issues Biden is expected to discuss with Putin

From CNN's Aditi Sangal / On-air reporting from CNN's Kylie Atwood

US President Joe Biden is expected to discuss a wide range of issues today with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their Geneva summit.

Probably the most challenging and the most critical issue could be cyber hacking, given the recent spate of ransomware attacks cutting across sectors in the United States, launched by criminal syndicates based in Russia. Biden will underscore US plans to respond to continued state-directed hacks, a senior administration official told CNN.

The other high-stakes issue on the table is election interference. The US intelligence community said in a landmark report in March that the Russian government meddled in the 2020 election with an influence campaign "denigrating" Biden and "supporting" former US President Donald Trump, detailing a massive disinformation push that successfully targeted, and was openly embraced, by Trump's allies. Russia denies involvement, CNN's national security correspondent Kylie Atwood adds.

The topic of Ukraine is also likely to come up as there has been a buildup of Russian troops along the border, which has reignited tensions in eastern Ukraine, where government forces have battled Russian-backed separatists demanding independence from Kiev since 2014. The US has supported Ukrainian sovereignty.

Biden will raise human rights, the official said, but would not specify if that will include a discussion of opposition leader Alexey Navalny.

The issue of prisoner swaps is high on the agenda. Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed are two of the Americans and former US Marines detained in Russia.

Officials underscored the modest expectations for the talks, saying nuclear stability and other arms control agreements as a potential source of agreement.


4:16 p.m. ET, June 16, 2021

Biden-Putin summit site hive of activity ahead of high-stakes meeting

From CNN's Kevin Liptak in Geneva

Thirty minutes before the expected arrivals of Presidents Putin and Biden, the French-style Villa la Grange is a hive of activity in anticipation for the most closely watched meeting of Biden’s young presidency. 

Delegations of Russian and Swiss officials have arrived at the site, including Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Swiss President Guy Parmelin. None responded to shouted questions about their expectations for the summit. 

Putin is expected to be the next arrival at the site. He has just landed in Geneva. 

American officials will all arrive with Biden, scheduled to happen after Putin’s arrival. 

Security is tight, and Russian and American officials are negotiating equal press access for the arrival. 

The building itself has been spruced up with flowers, flags and a red carpet. 

Two of the windows are open to let a breeze inside, and most of the pale green shutters are open — except for a room on the upper left hand side, where all the shutters are closed. 

White screens are obscuring the glass on the front door.