Russia warns US of ‘unpleasant’ messages ahead of Biden-Putin meeting

Russia warns US of ‘unpleasant’ messages ahead of Biden-Putin meeting
Russia and US gear up to begin first diplomatic meeting in June as tensions between them mount

Russia’s foreign ministry has put the US on notice ahead of a meeting between American president Joe Biden and and his Russian counterpart.

Sergei Rybakov, the Russian deputy foreign minister, warned president Vladimir Putin’s government would send “unpleasant” messages to the US if they did not discuss a range of issues at their upcoming meeting.

“The Americans must assume that a number of signals from Moscow … will be uncomfortable for them, including in the coming days,” he said, according to reporting from Russian news agency RIA.

Biden and Putin are expected to meet on 16 June in Geneva. Biden has publicly said he press Mr Putin on the importance of human rights. This will be their first meeting of Biden’s presidency.

Mr Rybakov said Russia could be willing to discuss human rights, in exchange for discussing the increase of NATO and American forces in the western regions of Russia, bordering Ukraine.

“The actions of our Western colleagues are destroying the world’s security system and force us to take adequate countermeasures,” said Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s defence minister, according to the Interfax news agency.

Biden made reference to his upcoming talks with Putin on Sunday. “I’m meeting with President Putin in a couple weeks in Geneva, making it clear we will not stand by and let him abuse those rights,” Mr Biden said in a Memorial Day weekend address in Delaware.

A Human Rights Watch report in 2020 on Russia found numerous human rights infringements. In 2019, the human rights situation was “deteriorating”. They cited torture and degrading treatment, election protest crackdowns and issues when it comes to freedom of expression.

An additional complication to better relations between the two countries is Biden announcing sanctions on Belarus after they arrested Raman Protasevich, a 26-year-old dissident journalist and his girlfriend Sofia Sapagea, a fellow journalist.