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Biden sees 'potential' progress in Putin's openness to extraditing cyber criminals

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Sunday said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s openness to swap cyber criminals with the U.S. is “potentially a good sign of progress.”

But Biden was not saying he’s going to exchange such criminals with Russia, the president’s national security adviser later clarified.

"What he was saying was that if Vladimir Putin wants to come and say, 'I'm prepared to make sure that cyber criminals are held accountable,’ Joe Biden is perfectly willing to show up and say cyber criminals will be held accountable in America, because they already are,” Jake Sullivan told reporters afterward. "This is not about exchanges or swaps, or anything like that."

Biden will sit down with Putin in Geneva on Wednesday at a time when both leaders say the relationship between the countries is at a low point.

Read more: From Reagan and Gorbachev to Biden and Putin: 6 meetings show how the US-Russia relationship has evolved

Wrapping up a meeting with the world’s wealthiest large democracies, Biden told reporters he may not be able to sway Putin.

“Autocrats have enormous power, and they don't have to answer to a public,” he said.

But Biden added that Putin may have incentives to work with the United States.

“Russia has engaged in activities which we believe are contrary to international norms,” Biden said. “But they have also bitten off some real problems they’re going to have trouble chewing on.”

Biden mentioned Russia's need to rebuild conflict-torn Syria, as well as deal with its own economy and with the coronavirus pandemic.

Post-Putin: Joe Biden to hold solo news conference after meeting with Vladimir Putin in Geneva

US President Joe Biden takes part in a press conference on the final day of the G7 summit at Cornwall Airport Newquay, near Newquay, Cornwall on June 13, 2021.
US President Joe Biden takes part in a press conference on the final day of the G7 summit at Cornwall Airport Newquay, near Newquay, Cornwall on June 13, 2021.

Russia and cyber crimes

Biden has said the issues he plans to raise at the summit include the Russia-based cyber criminals linked to recent attacks on U.S. companies.

"No responsible country should be in the business of harboring in any way criminal organizations engaged in cyberattacks, including ransomware. And the president is going to make that very clear to President Putin," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday. "We are looking for Russian cooperation in dealing with these criminal organizations to the extent they're operating from Russian territory."

In an interview aired Sunday on state television in Russia, Putin said the nation would “of course” extradite criminals if the United States “agrees to the same.”

Biden told reporters he’s open to mutual accountability.

“If there's crimes committed against Russia...and the people committing those crimes are being harbored in the United States, I'm committed to holding them accountable,” he said.

More: COVID-19 probe in China, less coal, 15% tax: What we learned from the G-7 summit in Cornwall

The leaders' one-on-one meeting will be their first face-to-face session since Biden became president.

After the summit, Biden is forgoing a joint news conference in favor of solo ones. He said Sunday that's so the focus won’t be on their public interaction.

“I don't want to get into being diverted by, 'Did they shake hands? Who talked the most?’ and the rest,” Biden said. “He can say what he said the meeting was about. And I will say what I think the meeting was about.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden encouraged by Putin's potential action on cyber criminals

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