Biden, in first call with Putin, discusses Navalny poisoning, arms treaty

President Biden's first 100 days

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Chairman of the Management Board of Novatek company Leonid Mikhelson and Chairman of the Management Board of Sibur company Dmitry Konov in Tobolsk, Russia December 1, 2020. Sputnik/Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — President Joe Biden had his first call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, the White House and Kremlin said.

Officials said Biden raised concerns about the arrest of opposition figure Alexei Navalny while asking the Russian president about his nation’s involvement in a massive cyberespionage campaign and bounties on American troops in Afghanistan.

The two presidents agreed to have their teams work urgently to complete an extension of New START, the last remaining U.S.-Russian arms control treaty, before it expires next month.

“In the nearest days, the parties will complete the necessary procedures that will ensure further functioning” of the pact, the Kremlin said in its readout of the call.

Moscow reached out last week to request the call, according to the U.S. officials, who were familiar with the call but not authorized to discuss it publicly. Biden agreed but wanted first to prepare with his staff and speak with European allies, including the leaders of Britain, France and Germany.

On Tuesday before his call with Putin, Biden spoke to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, pledging the United States’ commitment to the decades-old alliance.

Biden told Putin that his administration was assessing the SolarWinds breach and the reports that Russia offered the Taliban bounties to kill American troops in Afghanistan. Biden said the United States is willing to defend itself and will take action, which could include further sanctions, to ensure that Moscow does not act with impunity, according to the administration officials.

The Kremlin’s readout did not address the most contentious issues between the countries, though it said the leaders also discussed other “acute issues on the bilateral and international agenda.” It described the talk as “frank and businesslike.”

It also said Putin congratulated Biden on becoming president and “noted that normalization of ties between Russia and the United States would serve the interests of both countries.”

Among the issues it said were discussed were the coronavirus pandemic, the Iran nuclear agreement, Ukraine and issues related to trade and the economy.

The call came as Putin considers the aftermath of pro-Navalny protests that took place in more than 100 Russian cities over the weekend. Biden’s team has already reacted strongly to the crackdown on the protests, in which more than 3,700 people were arrested across Russia, including more than 1,400 in Moscow. More protests are planned for the coming weekend.

Navalny, an anti-corruption campaigner and Putin’s best-known critic, was arrested on Jan. 17 as he returned to Russia from Germany, where he had spent nearly five months recovering from nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. Biden has previously condemned the use of chemical weapons.

Russian authorities deny the accusations.

Biden, in his call with Putin, broke with former President Donald Trump by declaring that he knew that Russia attempted to interfere with both the 2016 and 2020 elections.

Biden on Monday told reporters he hoped the U.S. and Russia could cooperate in areas where both see benefit.

“I find that we can both operate in the mutual self-interest of our countries as a New START agreement and make it clear to Russia that we are very concerned about their behavior, whether it’s Navalny, whether it’s SolarWinds or reports of bounties on heads of Americans in Afghanistan,” Biden said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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