Biden raises election meddling with Putin call in first phone call




Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden
Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden  

US President Joe Biden has spoken to Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for his first time as president, warning him about 2020 election meddling.

The wide-ranging call on Tuesday afternoon also included a discussion about the ongoing opposition protests in Russia and the Start nuclear treaty.

Mr 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.

The call comes after criticism that former President Donald Trump was not forceful enough in his condemnation of Mr Putin. US intelligence officials say Russia has been involved in several US hacks.

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.

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 Mr 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 businesslike and frank nature," the Kremlin statement added.

What else did Biden do today?

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

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

"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," said Mr Biden.

Mr 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 Mr 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.

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