The Jerusalem Post
AMBASSADORS, CONSULAR SERVICES BELARUS
The status of foreign missions is one area where both sides believe there may be scope for progress.
Russia recalled Anatoly Antonov, its ambassador to Washington, in March after Biden said he believed Putin was a “killer,” while John Sullivan, the US ambassador to Moscow, returned to Washington for consultations in April.
An agreement for both diplomats to return to their posts would send a signal that some progress had been made.
There may also be room for a mini-deal on visas and embassy staffing.
Russia, in response to US sanctions, has imposed limits on the number of local staff the US Embassy can employ, forcing Washington to cut consular services.
It has also withdrawn from an agreement that eased restrictions on diplomats traveling around each other’s countries.
Russia is holding former US marine Paul Whelan on an espionage conviction and Trevor Reed, another former US marine, for an alleged assault on a police officer. Both deny wrongdoing.
Their families have pressed for their release ahead of the summit.
Asked if he would consider a prisoner swap, Putin told NBC News: “Yes. Yes, of course.”
Whelan’s Russian lawyer has previously suggested Moscow would be interested in a deal that brought arms dealer Viktor Bout home as well as Konstantin Yaroshenko, a pilot convicted of conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the US.
The Kremlin has said it expects Putin and Biden to discuss Belarus, a close Russian ally plunged into crisis last year when street protests erupted over what demonstrators said was a rigged presidential election.
With Moscow’s help, veteran leader Alexander Lukashenko has so far ridden out the storm by carrying out a brutal crackdown. His grounding last month of a commercial airliner and arrest of a dissident blogger on board drew Western outrage.
Biden is likely to challenge Putin over his support for Lukashenko and question him about plans to push ahead with integrating the two countries economically and politically.
Putin regards Belarus as part of Russia’s sphere of influence, and the two leaders are unlikely to see eye to eye.