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Putin to press Biden on human rights of ‘persecuted’ Capitol rioters: Russia

Russia diplomat warns US of ‘uncomfortable’ signals ahead of summit

Here’s what Biden says he’ll tell Putin during next month’s summit

President Biden said Wednesday he does not think Russian President Vladimir Putin is testing him with the recent serious hacks of a US gas pipeline and meat producer, as the White House said he still plans to meet the strongman leader this month.

Biden’s summit with Putin in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 16 comes on the heels of another economically disruptive hack by criminals suspected of working from Russia — this time against JBS Foods, the world’s largest meat supplier.

“President Biden certainly thinks that President Putin and the Russian government has a role to play in stopping and preventing these attacks,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at her daily press briefing.

“Our view is that when there are criminal entities within a country, they certainly have a responsibility, and it is a role that the government can play and again, that will be a discussion at the summit,” Psaki said.

Biden was asked later in the day if he would retaliate against Russia for the food company hack. “We’re looking closely at that issue,” Biden said.

Biden said “no” in response to a follow-up question about whether he believes Putin is testing him with the hack ahead of the summit.

Last month, a similar ransomware attack on the Colonial Pipeline caused US gas prices to surge as stations across the Southeast ran dry.

“There will be an opportunity for the president to discuss this directly with President Putin to reiterate the fact that we believe that responsible states do not harbor ransomware criminals,” Psaki said.

Psaki added that “responsible countries need to take decisive action against ransomware networks.”

Psaki was put on the defensive in a follow-up question from Fox News reporter Peter Doocy about why hacks against businesses seem to be increasing during Biden’s first year in office.

The question appeared to annoy her as she brushed it off, telling the reporter, “You could certainly go track down those cybercriminals in Russia and have a good chat with them.”

Although it’s difficult to determine with certainty the home base of sophisticated cybercriminals and assumptions sometimes are incorrect, both the Colonial Pipeline and JBS Foods hacks are suspected of being the work of criminals based in Russia.

JBS controls an estimated 20 percent of the US slaughtering capacity for cattle and pigs, meaning the hack could result in higher prices for US consumers due to a temporary work shutdown.

Biden in April offered Putin the summit during a call in which he informed him of US plans to expel diplomats and apply new sanctions as punishment for alleged Russian meddling in the 2020 election and the SolarWinds hack that impacted US government systems. Russia reciprocated by expelling US diplomats.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday that Putin is prepared to flip the script on Biden if he brings up sensitive issues, such as human rights, including the case of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who last year survived poisoning attempts.

“We will be ready to answer the questions that the American side will raise. This also applies to human rights,” Lavrov said. “For example, we are following with interest the persecution of those persons who are accused of the riots on January 6 this year.”

Psaki on Wednesday also fended off a reporter’s question about Russia saying Capitol rioters — about 440 of whom face criminal charges — are being persecuted.

“We don’t use the Russian government as our guide to human rights models in the world. But I will say that the president has not held back in his view that the attacks on Jan. 6 were a mark on democracy, were a dark day in our own democracy, and certainly I’m sure he’d be happy to repeat that,” she said.

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