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Given free rein to speak unchallenged after President Biden refused a joint press conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday flipped the script on US criticism of his actions on cybercrime, human rights and Ukraine policy — presenting the US as hypocritical following a nearly four-hour summit meeting between the two leaders.
The former KGB officer took questions solo at an indoor venue in Geneva, Switzerland, following talks with Biden, after the White House refused a joint press conference in order to reduce the risk of Biden falling into a PR trap.
Putin said he and Biden “reached an agreement that we will start negotiations” on curbing cybercrime, but he declared that the US is responsible for more cybercrime than Russia — striking a defiant posture and glossing over the fact that Russian criminals are suspected of roiling US markets with recent hacks.
“We’re going to start consultations. What we think is, when it comes to cybersecurity, cybersecurity is incredibly important in the world in general,” Putin said through a translator.
US officials accuse Russia of harboring the suspected criminal networks that attacked US industries, including the Colonial Pipeline, causing gas stations across the Southeast to run dry last month. Major meat processor JBS Foods also was attacked in another incident.
Putin reframed accusations of harboring cybercriminals with the dubious claim that the US is more responsible than Russia for hacking — similarly attempting to turn the tables on issues such as human rights.
“I’m talking about something that’s already well known, but not known to the broader public, not from American sources, I’m afraid,” Putin said through a translator. He didn’t cite a source, but said an expert assessment “said that most of the cyberattacks in the world are carried out from the cyber realm of the United States, and certainly places (like) Canada afterwards.”
The Russian leader said: “I think just throwing out these insinuations at the expert level, that’s inappropriate.”
Putin faced a number of skeptical questions from journalists, including about his treatment of dissidents and Russian intervention in Ukraine. He called for constitutional reforms that decentralize Ukraine to empower two small pro-Russia breakaway republics.
The Russian leader changed the topic when a journalist asked about his government imprisoning opposition leader Alexei Navalny, pointing to the prosecution of more than 400 supporters of former President Donald Trump for allegedly storming the Capitol on Jan. 6 to disrupt Biden’s victory.
“People came to the US Congress … they face prison sentences, up to 20, maybe the 25 years — they’re being called domestic terrorists,” Putin said.
He also cited alleged US “torture” of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and at secret CIA prisons established in Europe after 9/11 and the Black Lives Matter movement as evidence of American violations of human rights.
The US “recently had very severe events … after the killing of an African American and an entire movement developed known as Black Lives Matter,” he said.
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