Biden raises election meddling with Putin in first phone call

Biden raises election meddling with Putin in first phone call

US President Joe Biden has warned Russian leader Vladimir Putin about election meddling in their first call as counterparts, the White House says.

The conversation also included a discussion about the ongoing opposition protests in Russia.

A Kremlin statement did not refer to any points of friction, saying the call was "businesslike and frank".

Both sides reportedly agreed to extend the countries' last remaining nuclear deal during the call.

Former US President Donald Trump sometimes undercut his own administration's tough posture on Russia and was accused by some of being too deferential to Mr Putin.

But Mr Trump's predecessor Barack Obama - under whom Mr Biden served as vice-president - was also criticised for failing to check Russia as it annexed Crimea, supported rebel forces in eastern Ukraine and backed the government of warn-torn Syria.

What did the White House and Kremlin say?

"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," the White House said in a statement, referencing the main talking points of Tuesday afternoon's call but listing no further details.

The US said that the two presidents also discussed the massive SolarWinds cyber-attack, which has been blamed on Moscow; reports that the Kremlin placed bounties on US soldiers in Afghanistan; and the poisoning of Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny.

The Kremlin statement about the call said their president had "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".

The leaders also discussed the New Start treaty, an Obama-era accord that limits the amounts of warheads, missiles and launchers in the two countries' nuclear arsenals.

It had been due to expire on 5 February, but both sides reportedly agreed to extend the treaty during Tuesday's call.

The Trump administration, however, had refused to sign it and talks over an extension stalled.

On Wednesday, Russia's parliament ratified a five-year extension of the treaty. Mr Putin said the move was a "step in the right direction" to reducing global tensions.-BBC