Russian President Vladimir Putin says he would be willing to swap cybercriminals with the United States if President Joe Biden is willing to make a deal.
Putin made the comments in an interview that aired in excerpts on state television on Sunday, according to Reuters.
Biden is scheduled to meet with Putin on Wednesday in Geneva.
One issue on the agenda is the increasing number of cyberattacks coming from Russia. After a ransomware attack from criminals believed to be based in Russia that shut down the Colonial Pipeline, a cyberattack disrupted meatpacker JBS.
Putin said that a deal to go after cybercriminals could be possible if the United States and Russia were to abide by the same rules, Putin said.
“If we agree to extradite criminals, then, of course, Russia will do that, we will do that, but only if the other side, in this case, the United States, agrees to the same and will extradite the criminals in question to the Russian Federation,” he said.
“The question of cybersecurity is one of the most important at the moment because turning all kinds of systems off can lead to really difficult consequences,” he said.
Biden called the Putin offer “potentially a good sign of progress,” according to USA Today.
“If there’s crimes committed against Russia, and people committing those crimes are being harbored in the United States, I’m committed to holding them accountable,” he said.
“There’s a lot of interplay between cybercriminals and the government” in Russia, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee told the news outlet.
Republican Sen. Mike Rounds agreed.
“It’s my opinion that nothing happens in Russia without the government’s approval,” he said, according to Politico.
At a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday, FBI Director Christopher Wray hinted at cooperating between the Russian government and hackers.
“The degree of nexus between those cybercriminals, and the Russian government is not something I can discuss in an open hearing,” Wray said, according to Politico. “I will say that the most recent actors — the so-called DarkSide actors involved in the Colonial Pipeline attack — are individuals who, perhaps not coincidentally, specifically target English-speaking victims.”
Sen. Angus King, a Maine Independent, said Russia needs to stop allowing cybergangs to operate without any consequences.
“They can’t allow international criminals to operate with impunity within their borders,” King said, according to Politico. “If we had a gang of international bank robbers living in Richmond, Va., I think we’d go after them.”
Putin said he hoped the meeting would take some of the frost off of Russian-American relations and create “functioning mechanism” for talks on “areas of mutual interest,” such as regional conflicts, economic cooperation and the environment, according to CNN.
“In general, there is something to talk about and there are common issues to discuss,” Putin said.
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