President Joe Biden had his first official call with Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Biden reaffirmed the United State’s commitment to Ukrainian sovereignty; Russia and Ukraine have been waging war over the Ukrainian state of Crimea, which Russia has considered its own for decades.
He noted his support for the possibility to the two countries recommitting to the START nuclear pact, which was set to expire in February. The START pact sets self-imposed limits on how many nuclear weapons either country can stockpile.
Biden pressed Putin on Russia’s alleged actions against the United States in recent months, including the recent hack of U.S. government agencies and companies, and the reports Russia paid Afghan militants in exchange for attacking U.S. troops.
“The United States will act firmly in defense of our national interests in response to malign actions by Russia,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
Biden voiced concern for the treatment of political protestors who took to the streets throughout Russia and were treated harshly by the police. Thousands rallied on behalf of Alexi Navalny, a prominent Putin critic who survived a poisoning attempt by Russian intelligence and returned to Moscow shortly after he recovered. His arrest in the Moscow airport have touched in a nerve among Russians, who see Navalny as an exposer of corruption among Putin and the elite.