Russia open to prisoner swap with US, says Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden will hold talks in Geneva on Wednesday for the first time since the US president took office in January - NBC News via AP / NBC News via AP
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow was open to a prisoner exchange with the US after Joe Biden apparently signaled that the US could extradite hackers to Russia.
Mr Putin's remarks on Monday came two days before a highly anticipated summit between the two heads of state and government in Geneva.
President Putin said in an interview published Monday with NBC that an exchange of prisoners between the two countries was possible.
"We are ready to discuss this issue," he said. “These are humanitarian problems. Why not talk about it? "
Mr Biden mentioned at a press conference on Sunday that he was "open" to "holding accountable" hackers convicted in the US for "actually committing these crimes".
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan later clarified that Mr Biden had not signed a prisoner swap and that cyber criminals in the US could be held accountable.
Moscow has two US citizens behind bars.
Paul Whelan, a former security advisor, was sentenced to 16 years in prison last year for espionage. A month later, Trevor Reed, a student, was sentenced to nine years in prison for drunk and assaulting a Moscow police officer.
The two Americans are largely seen as pawns in the Kremlin to act against Russians in US custody, such as the convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is also known as the "merchant of death" thanks to a bestseller about him.
US authorities have insisted that Bout is a dangerous criminal who should stay in prison to serve his 25-year sentence.
US-Russia relations have sunk to a post Cold War low since Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014 and threw its weight behind the separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Aside from a possible prisoner swap and strengthening the diplomatic missions of both countries, there isn't much reason Mr Biden and Mr Putin are likely to agree on.
The US president is likely to press for the arrest and detention of Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader, in January.
"He is treated no worse than anyone," Putin was quoted as saying to NBC.
When asked about the ongoing rush to the regional network of Mr. Navalny, he added: “You present it as contradiction and intolerance of contradiction in Russia. We see it very differently. "
Putin also used the interview to reject allegations that Russia was behind cyber attacks against the US.
When asked whether Russia was waging a "cyber war" against the US, he said, "Where is the evidence? It will be a farce."
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