Virtual talks between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin over Ukraine finished on Tuesday after two hours and five minutes, Russia’s RIA news agency reported. The two leaders were seeking to de-escalate tensions amid Western fears that Moscow is poised to invade its southern neighbour, something Russia denies. But a bizarre video interaction has between the two leaders had many people commenting on Twitter.
President Biden waved to Putin while his mic was muted as the Russian leader responded with an awkward wave.
Mike wrote on Twitter: “Putin must be thinking ‘what an idiot’.”
Blanche added: “This is embarrassing.”
While Sonu rushed to Mr Biden’s defence. She said: “So what? It can happen to anyone.”
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Mr Biden told Putin he hoped their next meeting would be in person.
The White House issued a statement saying the talks had started, but did not display any visuals from the secure ‘Situation Room’ where Biden was located.
The Kremlin has said it hopes the two leaders can hold an in-person summit to discuss what it has described as the lamentable state of US-Russia relations, which have sunk to their lowest since the end of the Cold War.
US officials said before the video conference that Biden would tell Putin that Russia and its banks could be hit with the toughest economic sanctions yet if it attacks Ukraine.
They said the sanctions, which one source said could target Russia’s biggest banks and Moscow’s ability to convert roubles into dollars and other currencies, were designed to dissuade Putin from using tens of thousands of troops massed near the Ukrainian border to attack its southern neighbour.
The Kremlin, which said before Tuesday’s meeting it did not expect any breakthroughs, has denied harbouring any intention to attack Ukraine and has said its troop posture is defensive.
But Moscow has voiced rising vexation over Western military aid to Ukraine, a fellow former Soviet republic that has tilted towards the West since a popular revolt toppled a pro-Russian president in 2014, and what it calls creeping NATO expansion.
Moscow has likewise questioned Ukrainian intentions and said it wants guarantees that Kyiv will not use force to try to retake territory lost in 2014 to Russia-backed separatists, a scenario Ukraine has ruled out.
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“We’re looking for good, predictable relations with the United States. Russia has never intended to attack anyone, but we have our concerns and we have our red lines,” said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.
Leaders from Britain, the United States, France, Germany and Italy will hold a call at 1800 GMT following the Biden-Putin talks, the White House and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office said.
The same allies spoke on Monday and “agreed to stay in close touch on a coordinated and comprehensive approach in response to Russia’s military build-up on Ukraine’s borders,” the White House said.
Calling for everyone to keep “a cool head”, Peskov said it was vital that Putin and Biden speak given what he called the extraordinary escalation of tensions in Europe.