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Putin says the US and Russia have agreed to return ambassadors and resume diplomatic operations

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he and President Joe Biden agreed on Wednesday that their respective ambassadors will return to their overseas posts, marking a resumption of diplomatic relations between the two adversaries that have been suspended since April.

Neither Russia's ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, nor Washington's ambassador to Moscow, John Sullivan, are currently at his post.

Both men were recalled this spring after Biden announced a new round of US sanctions to punish Russia for a massive cyberattack on US government agencies last year.

As a result, consular operations, visas and other diplomatic services came to a virtual standstill in both countries. This collapse had an impact on industries, families and aid agencies that have links in both countries.

The return of the ambassadors was one of the few concrete results that emerged immediately after the meeting of the two heads of state and government in Geneva on Wednesday.

The summit began with a 90-minute meeting that was attended only by Biden, Putin and their key foreign policy advisers, Foreign Minister Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Following the meeting, the two sides moved on to an extended bilateral meeting with additional advisors.

Officials had previously agreed that Putin would give the first press conference after the talks and that Biden would speak afterwards.

At the top of the agenda were nuclear arms control, cyber war and security, the civil war in Syria and the Iranian nuclear program.

Nuclear talks

In February, the Biden government extended an important nuclear weapons treaty with Russia for another five years.

But the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, is currently the only arms control treaty between Washington and Moscow.

Former President Donald Trump has withdrawn from the Intermediate Range Missile Treaty [INF]. Similar to the INF treaty, New START limits the nuclear arsenals of Washington and Moscow.

Putin and Biden have expressed a desire to re-establish a channel for high-level nuclear talks, and both leaders recognize this as an area where the two countries have long maintained dialogue, despite their broken ties on other issues.

The United States and Russia own the lion's share of the world's nuclear weapons.

Cyber ​​crime

Biden also wanted to warn Putin that if he fails to take action to stop Russia-based cybercriminals, the United States will act instead, potentially disrupting Russia's digital infrastructure.

Biden's warning follows two targeted ransomware attacks last month that directly targeted American citizens, both of which were perpetrated by criminals believed to be based in Russia.

The first was an attack on the operator of the country's largest gas pipeline, the Colonial Pipeline, in early May. The attack forced the company to shut down an approximately 8,500-mile fuel pipeline, causing nearly half the east coast fuel disruption and fuel shortages in the southeast and airline disruptions.

The second attack, by another cybercriminal group based in Russia, targeted JBS, the world's largest meat supplier. The company eventually paid a $ 11 million ransom, but not before it temporarily ceased all of its U.S. operations.

Putin has denied any knowledge of the attacks and recently suggested that unless the cyber criminals break Russian laws, there is nothing he can do to stop them.

But US officials said the idea that Putin was unaware of the attacks is not credible as he has a firm grip on Russia's intelligence services and its more opaque network of contractors.

Biden also intended to press Putin over Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and arming separatists in eastern Ukraine, the poisoning and detention of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and the fate of two American former marines in Russian custody.

A breakthrough from both sides was hardly to be expected. Biden and Putin recently said they believe Russian-US relations have hit rock bottom since the Cold War.

Officials in Moscow and Washington have spent months lowering expectations for the summit, and this week advisers to both leaders said it was unlikely that any deal would be reached in Geneva.

But from that low point, the United States saw the summit as an opportunity to forge more stable and predictable relationships between the world's two largest nuclear powers.

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