SUMMIT NOTEBOOK: Biden gives Putin custom aviator sunglasses

Politics
Joe Biden

President Joe Biden puts on his sunglasses toward the end of a news conference after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Wednesday, June 16, 2021, in Geneva, Switzerland. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

GENEVA (AP) — President Joe Biden marked his first presidential summit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin with a gift, presenting his counterpart with a pair of custom aviator sunglasses.

Biden is so known for wearing aviator shades that he’s sometimes parodied over them. He notably kept wearing his aviators while meeting Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle on Sunday.

The custom aviators are a brand manufactured in Massachusetts and designed for fighter pilots, the White House said, announcing the gifts after Biden and Putin concluded their summit in Geneva on Wednesday.

The U.S. leader also gave Putin a crystal sculpture of an American bison made by a New York-based glass company.

The Kremlin has not said whether and how Putin may have reciprocated.

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What does it mean when Biden nods his head?

Apparently not much, according to the White House.

Biden’s silent nod during a photo op Wednesday at his summit with Putin appeared to suggest that he can take Putin at his word. A reporter had shouted over colleagues to ask Biden whether Putin could be trusted.

That nod set off a flurry of media speculation — had Biden just indicated a new level of trust about the man he referred to days ago as a “worthy adversary”?

Not so fast, the White House said.

Communications director Kate Bedingfield and press secretary Jen Psaki both said Biden wasn’t responding to a particular question during the chaotic moments when U.S. and Russian reporters shouted over one another and struggled to get into the small room for a glimpse of the leaders.

Biden was just acknowledging the media generally, they said.

Bedingfield added that Biden had earlier said his approach to Putin would be to “verify, then trust.”

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Some pushing and shoving between journalists and security officials is practically routine at high-level news events, but unusually fierce shoving and shouting broke out at the Biden-Putin photo op.

Russian and U.S. security officials initially blocked journalists as they tried to enter the small, library-like room where the leaders sat.

U.S. journalists described Russian security and news media grabbing them by the arms and clothes to try to hold them back. U.S. journalists tried to shoulder their way in, and one was knocked to the ground.

Some reporters were heard screaming, “Stop pushing!” and “Don’t touch me!” Others described being crushed in the melee.

Biden and Putin watched awkwardly at first, then laughed at the tumult.

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The Swiss government will reimburse scores of businesses in Geneva that were forced to close because of security measures surrounding the U.S.-Russia summit.

Geneva officials adopted a decree to compensate the owners of shops that ended up inside the security perimeter set up for the meeting between Biden and Putin.

Laurent Paoliello, a spokesperson for the regional security department, says the federal government will provide the funding but cautioned that it wouldn’t be a “blank check.”

The spokesperson says the payments will be distributed after an analysis of revenue shortfalls by up to 100 businesses.

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Associated Press writer Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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