Kremlin says Vladimir Putin ready for dialogue if U.S. willing

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Relations between Moscow and Washington have been at their lowest since the end of the Cold War, with the two sides at oddsover Russia’s role in Ukraine

Russia is ready to set up adialogue with the new Biden administration in which differences are expected to be aired, a Kremlin spokesman said on Sunday, adding that President Vladimir Putin would respond in kind to U.S. willingness to talk.

Relations between Moscow and Washington have been at their lowest since the end of the Cold War, with the two sides at oddsover Russia’s role in Ukraine and allegations of its meddling inU.S. elections, which it denies, among other issues.

The United States on Saturday also called on Russian authorities to release protesters and journalists detained at demonstrations supporting detained Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, and condemned what it called “harsh tactics” usedagainst them.

Also read: Poison and prison: On political importance of Navalny

Police detained more than 3,000 people and used force tobreak up rallies across Russia as tens of thousands braved bitter cold to join protests in support of Navalny.

“Of course, we count on success in setting up a dialogue,”Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying on TV byInterfax news agency.

“This will be the dialogue where, of course, differences will have to be stated to a greater extent, points of differences. But at the same time, a dialogue is a possibility to find some rational kernels, the little parts where ourrelations are getting closer,” he said.

“And if the current U.S. administration is ready for such anapproach, I have no doubts that our President will respond inkind.”

Mr. Putin was one of the last global leaders to congratulate Joe Biden on his victory in the U.S. Presidential election after the Nov. 3 vote.

One of the burning issues to be resolved by the two nuclear powers is the arms control treaty, known as New START, which is due to expire on Feb. 5.

The White House said last week that Mr. Biden would seek a five-year extension to the deal, while the Kremlin requested concrete proposals from Washington.

Mr. Peskov also appeared to be using a more conciliatory tone on Sunday than the Russian foreign ministry, which a day earlier described Washington’s public support for anti-Kremlin protesters as meddling in Russia’s domestic affairs.

Mr. Peskov reiterated the point on Sunday, but softened it by using the words “indirect interference”. At the same time, he said protests were illegal and protesters were far outnumberedby voters who supported Mr. Putin.

Washington was joined by the European Union and Britain incondemning the security forces’ handling of Sundayy’s protests, and France’s foreign minister on Sunday said the arrests were jeopardising the rule of law in Russia and called for sanctions.

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