The highly-anticipated Biden-Putin summit in Geneva kicked off on Wednesday in an explosive fashion with Russian security and the media getting into a shoving match ahead of the three-hour-long meeting.
As expected, the media was all over President Biden and President Putin as they met each other in front of the Villa la Grange for photos. The press started vying for prime spots to photo and video the two leaders as they sat down to begin talking in earnest. That point in the festivities was chaotic due to one reporter blocking other cameras and then refusing to move out of the way when he was asked to step aside.
The White House press pool claimed that reporters from both the U.S. and Russia rushed to enter the building and shout questions at the two leaders. Only a small portion of the media present was allowed into the room where the meeting took place. As others tried to push their way in, things got even more chaotic. A shoving match broke out between Swiss officials, Russian security, and the media. Reporters could be heard telling officials: “Can you stop pushing!” “Don’t push me!”
Fox News reporter Peter Doocy described the scene: “Russian security was pulling back the rope to get them out. Lots of shoving and grabbing and it was extremely aggressive. The Russian security pulled on our clothes and shoved us as we tried to stay in the room. I have heard from somebody who works at the White House that they were ordered, they were lined up about 10 minutes beforehand to get in, and that as things kind of started to deteriorate in the room, the Swiss, who are the hosts for the U.S. And Russia, the neutral party here, were trying to get people organized, trying to get people in line and it didn’t work.”
(Video Credit: The Washington Post)
The shoving didn’t let up during the confrontation. Journalists pushed and yelled at each other to get out of the way. Russian security then pulled the red rope separating the media from the leaders in an attempt to keep the media away. At that point, Russian security told journalists to get out of the room and then began shoving the reporters and media personnel.
During the encounter, reporters and officials were yelling as a Swiss official kept urging them to be quiet. Eventually, nine U.S. journalists and an unknown number of Russian reporters were allowed inside the villa’s library where Biden and Putin were seated. Most of the media were summarily shut out of the meeting by security.
Politico’s Anita Kumar was one of the reporters in front and had this to say: “The media scuffle was the most chaotic your pooler has seen at a presidential event in nine years.”
Biden and Putin watching the media scuffle pic.twitter.com/meU4WyJulr
— Anita Kumar (@anitakumar01) June 16, 2021
And that's me right in the front https://t.co/zk7To3zcdB
— Anita Kumar (@anitakumar01) June 16, 2021
CNN’s Natasha Bertrand also spoke on the shoving match: “More on the chaotic scene ahead of first Biden-Putin meeting, via the US TV pool: ‘Lots of shoving and grabbing – it was extremely aggressive. The Russian security pulled on our clothes and shoved us.’ Meanwhile, Russian journos blaming US press, saying they staged a ‘stampede.'”
Biden, who was accompanied by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Putin, who was accompanied by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, watched on as the drama unfolded looking almost bemused by the whole affair. Biden actually smiled at one point.
One journalist got in a question to Biden asking him if he trusted Putin. He nodded as if affirming that he did. However, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki claimed that the President was not responding to the reporter’s question: “During a chaotic free for all with members of the press shouting questions over each other, the President gave a general head nod in the direction of the media. He wasn’t responding to any question or anything other than the chaos.”
Another reporter asked Putin if he feared the Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny. The dissident was poisoned and imprisoned by Putin. The Russian President was asked what he would do if Ukraine were to join NATO. Putin did not respond to either question. No questions were asked concerning Putin’s feelings towards Biden but he has previously shown little respect for the President.
It was agreed prior to the meeting that a small select number of journalists from the U.S. and Russia would be allowed access into the building.
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