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Biden-Putin summit a chance to catch a ‘falling knife,’ top Russian official says

This combination of pictures created on March 17, 2021 shows US President Joe Biden(L) during remarks on the implementation of the American Rescue Plan in the State Dining room of the White House in Washington, DC on March 15, 2021, and Russian President Vladimir Putin as he and his Turkish counterpart hold a joint press statement following their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 5, 2020.

Eric Baradat | AFP | Getty Images

The upcoming U.S.-Russia summit will be a critical moment in trying to revive poor relations between the two countries, Kirill Dmitriev, the CEO of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund RDIF, told CNBC Friday.

President Joe Biden is meeting President Vladimir Putin on June 16 in Geneva, Switzerland, in what will be their first face-to-face meeting since Biden took office. The summit takes place amid sanctions and allegations of election interference, human rights violations, differences over the Middle East and many other issues.

“I compare (the) U.S.-Russia relationship to a falling knife and we need to catch this knife on the 16th till it falls to the floor,” Dmitriev told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

“There are a lots of real issues that are different, but also there are really a lot of misunderstandings and we at least need to engage and start communicating much more, because when we see things being done, there are really lots of wrong assumptions in the decisions that are being made,” he added.

In the latest escalation between both sides, Russia has suggested ditching dollar-denominated oil contracts if the U.S. were to impose fresh sanctions. Also on Thursday, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov confirmed that U.S. dollar assets will be cut from its $186 billion National Wealth Fund.

The relationship between Moscow and Washington deteriorated in 2014 after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, which led to U.S. sanctions. But, according to Andrey Kostin, the chairman of Russia’s VTB Bank, the link hit its “lowest possible level” during the Donald Trump presidency.

“I am little bit skeptical because the previous records do not give us too much ground for enthusiasm,” Kostin told CNBC about the upcoming summit, adding that it is nonetheless “very, very good that the two leaders will meet.”

Speaking to CNBC Friday at the same event, he said that Putin and Biden will “definitely” not make the relationship worse.

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