Biden raises election meddling with Putin in first phone call

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US President Joe Biden has warned Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin about election meddling in their first call, the White House says.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 10, 2011, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with US Vice President Joe Biden during their meeting in Moscow.

US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin. (File photo). Photo: AFP

The conversation on Tuesday afternoon US local time included a discussion about the ongoing opposition protests in Russia and the Start nuclear treaty.

Putin congratulated the new US president on winning the election, according to a Russian statement.

Both parties said they agreed to maintain contact moving forward.

Former US President Donald Trump was accused by critics of not being forceful enough with Putin. US intelligence officials say Moscow has been involved in several US hacks.

Former President Barack Obama – under whom Biden served as vice-president – was also accused by critics of weakness on Russia, and failing to check the Kremlin as it annexed Crimea, invaded eastern Ukraine and muscled in on Syria.

What did the White House and Kremlin say about the call?

“President Biden made clear that the United States will act firmly in defence of its national interests in response to actions by Russia that harm us or our allies,” a US statement said.

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A readout of the call from the White House said that the two presidents also discussed the massive SolarWinds cyber-attack, reports that Russia placed bounties on US soldiers in Afghanistan, and the poisoning of Alexei Navalny.

The Kremlin’s readout of the call said Putin, “noted that the normalisation of relations between Russia and the United States would meet the interests of both countries and – taking into account their special responsibility for maintaining security and stability in the world – of the entire international community”.

“On the whole, the conversation between the leaders of Russia and the United States was of a business-like and frank nature,” the Kremlin statement added.

What else did Biden do today?

The call with the Kremlin comes as Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, was confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 78-22.

Biden later appeared at the White House to sign a series of executive orders aimed at addressing what he called US systemic racism.

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“This is the time to act and it’s to act because it’s what the core values of this nation call us to do. I believe the vast majority of Democrats, Republicans and Independents share these values and want us to act as well,” Biden said.

Biden signed four executive orders:

    • directing the housing department to address racially discriminatory federal housing policies
    • ordering the Department of Justice to expire contracts with private prisons
    • condemning xenophobia against Asian Americans amidst the Covid pandemic
    • reinvigorating commitment to tribal governments

The orders come as US senators were sworn in as jurors for Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate, in which he is accused of inciting an insurrection.

If convicted, the former president could face being barred from ever holding office again.

– BBC

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