The White House is bent on preventing President Biden from having a run-in with Russian President Vladimir Putin while the pair attend the G20 summit next month, according to a new report.
White House aides want to avoid even a hallway meeting between the two, or any other situation that might allow for them to be pictured together, Politico reported Wednesday. Biden has condemned Putin as a killer and a war criminal for his ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
The G20 summit will run from November 15-16 in Indonesia. Biden and Putin will likely be in the same room for at least one large general meeting.
Biden and other White House officials have been adamant that they have no intention to meet with Putin during the summer. Biden did open the door to a potential meeting if Putin were to discuss the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who has been wrongfully held in Russia for months.
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“Look, I have no intention of meeting with him, but look, if he came to me at the G20 and said, ‘I want to talk about the release of Griner,’ I would meet with him, but that would depend,” Biden told CNN’s Jake Tapper in an interview last week.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre later emphasized that the White House continues to have no intention of meeting with Putin. She added that there were no updates regarding a potential meeting to discuss Griner.
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“[Biden] strongly believes that the Russians need to take the serious offer that we put forward on the table or make a serious counter-offer,” Jean-Pierre said of a potential prisoner swap for Griner’s. “He has no intention of meeting with Vladimir Putin.”
The lead-up to the G20 summit comes as Putin’s forces have started targeting power and water infrastructure in Ukraine. While Ukrainian forces continue to make progress on the ground, Russian missile and drone strikes have wreaked havoc on the country’s power grid and water supply, potentially painting a grim picture for the imminent winter.
“Since Oct 10, 30% of Ukraine’s power stations have been destroyed, causing massive blackouts across the country,” Ukrainian Preisdent Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced Tuesday. “No space left for negotiations with Putin’s regime.”