Biden ‘open’ to Putin’s offer to exchange cybercriminals amid ransomware attacks

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President Biden said he would be “open” to an offer from Russian leader Vladimir Putin to an exchange of cybercriminals in the wake of ransomware attacks on a major meat supplier that disrupted processing plants and a fuel pipeline that set off days of panic buying in the Southeast.

Speaking during the conclusion of the G-7 summit of world leaders in Britain, Biden was asked about Putin’s proposal about each country turning over cybercriminals.

“I’m open to it if there’s crimes committed against Russia. That in fact the people committing those crimes are being harbored in the United States, I’m committed to holding him accountable,” Biden said, adding that he learned of Putin’s comments after the end of the summit.

“I think that’s potentially a good sign of progress,” Biden maintained.

Putin made the offer during an address on state-run television on Sunday, days before his summit with Biden in Geneva, Switzerland.

The ransomware attacks are expected to be a focus on talks between the two leaders on Wednesday.

Putin said he would turn over cybercriminals if the US responded in kind.

“If we agree to extradite criminals, then of course Russia will do that, we will do that, but only if the other side, in this case the United States, agrees to the same and will extradite the criminals in question to the Russian Federation,” Putin said.

“The question of cyber security is one of the most important at the moment because turning all kinds of systems off can lead to really difficult consequences,” he continued.

Biden was also questioned at his news conference why he decided on holding a solo press conference following his sitdown with Putin and voice his criticism of the Russian leader as he stands next to him. 

Biden insisted it’s not a “contest about who can do better in front of a press conference to try to embarrass each other.”

“It’s about making myself very clear what the conditions are to get a better relationship partner with Russia. We’re not looking for conflict,” he said.

“So the bottom line is that I think the best way to deal with this is for he and I to meet, he and I to have our discussion. I will make clear my view of how that meeting turned out, and he’ll make clear out from his perspective how it turned out,” the president said. 

But Biden said he doesn’t want their discussions to be “diverted” by questions about whether they shook hands, or who talked the most.

Former President Donald Trump was largely criticized after his joint press conference with Putin following their 2018 summit in Helsinki, Finland, when he sided with Putin’s denial that Moscow meddled in the 2016 presidential election and questioned the US intelligence community’s findings. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Biden will press Putin on the cyber attacks.

“When it comes to ransomware, no responsible country should be in the business of harboring criminal organizations engaged in those practices. And that is something that the president very much intends to take up with President Putin. That’s very much on the agenda,” Blinken said on “Fox News Sunday.” 

He also defended Biden’s decision to hold a solo presser after the summit

“I think it’s the most effective way for the president to be able to talk with the free press and to share, for as long he can, what was discussed in the meeting with President Putin, as well as to cover the entire week, to talk about what we’ve accomplished over the course of the G-7, the NATO meetings, the E.U. meetings,” he said.

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