A summit between president Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Joe Biden is likely to take place as early as June, a senior Kremlin official said on Sunday, amid hopes that face-to-face talks between the two leaders will ease heightened tension between Moscow and Washington.
Biden proposed to Putin earlier this month that they hold a summit in a third country in an effort to “normalise” relations between Moscow and the west, which have soured over new US sanctions against the Kremlin, Russia’s large military build-up on the border with Ukraine and concerns over the health of jailed Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny.
Yuri Ushakov, Putin’s foreign policy adviser, said on Russian state television that “they are talking about June, there are even specific dates,” being considered for the meeting, adding: “Well, I will not talk about them yet, but it is June.”
While Ushakov said the summit would take place “dependent on many factors”, his remarks are the strongest sign that the Kremlin is actively working on arranging the meeting. Other senior Russian officials have said Biden’s proposal for a meeting in a European country has been “positively” received.
Biden plans to be in Europe in June for his first foreign trip since taking office, to attend the G7 summit in the UK from June 11-13 and the Nato summit in Belgium on June 14.
The White House did not respond to requests for comment on Sunday.
Ushakov’s comments follow a week in which Russia has appeared to take a less confrontational tack on issues where it has clashed the west.
Moscow last week announced that thousands of troops deployed near to the Ukrainian border would return to their bases and allowed civilian doctors to visit Navalny in jail, where he subsequently ended a 24-day hunger strike. Putin also agreed to participate in Biden’s climate change summit on Thursday.
Biden’s summit offer came just two days before he announced a new series of sanctions against Moscow, as part of a bid both to punish Putin for past actions such as alleged meddling in US elections and cyber attacks and offer the promise of a more co-operative future relationship.
The move came a month after Biden told an interviewer that he agreed with the assessment that Putin was a “killer”, a comment that sparked outrage from the Kremlin and saw Russia recall its ambassador from Washington.
The envoy has not yet returned, while the US ambassador to Moscow also returned home for consultations last week, meaning both countries’ embassies are without their most senior representatives as discussions over the potential summit take place.
Prior to Ushakov’s remarks, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov had earlier this month said that the Kremlin would “take some time to analyse [Biden’s] proposal.”