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In an exclusive interview with NBC's "Today," Russian President Vladimir Putin denied that Russia is waging cyber warfare against the United States and refused to guarantee opposition leader Alexei Navalny — whose name he would not say — will leave prison alive.

Why it matters: Cyberattacks by Russian intelligence and Russian-speaking criminal groups, as well as the Kremlin's attempted assassination and jailing of Navalny, are among the topics President Biden is expected to raise at his Geneva summit with Putin on Wednesday.

Background: The Biden administration imposed sanctions on Russia in April for the massive SolarWinds hack of federal agencies and interference in the 2020 U.S. election, which U.S. intelligence assessed was personally ordered by Putin.

  • The U.S. has also sanctioned seven senior Russian officials for the poisoning and detention of Navalny, who is often described as "the man Putin fears most."
  • In recent weeks, Russia has moved to designate Navalny's political networks as terrorist organizations, effectively outlawing the country's most prominent opposition faction.
  • Biden has condemned Russia's behavior as "inconsistent with international norms," and both he and Putin agree that U.S.-Russia relations are at a "low point." The White House has said Biden remains committed to meeting Putin on Wednesday "because of our countries' differences, not in spite of them."

What they're saying: "Where is the evidence? Where is proof? It's becoming farcical," Putin told NBC's Keir Simmons when asked if he is "waging a cyber war against America."

  • "We know it well. We have been accused of all kinds of things: election interference, cyber attacks and so on and so forth, and not once, not one time, did they bother to produce any kind of evidence or proof. Just unfounded accusations."
  • "You know, the simplest thing to do would be for us to sit down calmly and agree on joint work in cyber space," he continued. "We are willing to engage with international participants, including the United States. You are the ones who have refused to engage in joint work."

Other highlights:

  • On Navalny: Putin denied that Russia is "outlawing dissent," saying that he views the ban on Navalny's political networks "completely differently." Asked whether he could guarantee Navalny would leave prison alive, Putin said: "The person you have mentioned, the same kind of measures will apply, not in any way worse to anybody else who happens to be in prison."
    • When Simmons replied that "his name is Alexei Navalny," Putin shook his head and responded: "I don't care. I don't care."
  • On Americans imprisoned in Russia: Putin said he would be willing to consider a "prisoner swap" for the two former U.S. Marines, Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed, currently detained in Russia. The State Department has said Russia is holding the two Americans as "political pawns."
  • On Biden's claim he once told Putin he doesn't have a soul: "I do not remember this particular part of our conversation to be honest with you," Putin told Simmons. "He probably has a good memory."

Go deeper: G7 leaders warn Russia on cyberattacks, chemical weapons usage

Go deeper

Sep 20, 2021 - World

Shooting at Russian university leaves at least 6 dead, 28 injured

Women react as students evacuate a building at Perm State University in Russia on Sept. 20, 2021, following the shooting. Photo: Olga Yushkova/AFP via Getty Images

At least six people were killed and 28 were wounded after a gunman opened fire at Russia's Perm State University on Monday, investigators said.

Driving the news: The Investigative Committee of Russia identified the shooter as a student but has not released a name. The committee said the suspect was injured while resisting arrest and was taken to a "medical institution."

Sep 21, 2021 - World

U.K. prosecutors charge third person in poisoning of former Russian spy

Emergency services members in biohazard encapsulated suits work at the poisoning scene in Salisbury, England, in March 2018. Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images

U.K. prosecutors said they had enough evidence to charge Denis Sergeev, a member of the Russian military intelligence service, in the 2018 Salisbury nerve agent attack against a former Russian spy, according to AP.

Why it matters: Sergeev is the third person to face charges for the nerve agent attack against Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, both of whom survived.

Updated Sep 21, 2021 - World

Russia to blame for Litvinenko's killing, European court rules

The grave of Alexander Litvinenko at Highgate Cemetery in London. Photo: Jim Dyson/Getty Images

The European Court of Human Rights ruled Tuesday that Russia "was responsible for the assassination of Aleksandr Litvinenko" in London.

Why it matters: Former KGB officer Litvinenko, a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, died in 2006 after being poisoned in London with Polonium 210, a rare radioactive isotope. Russia has always denied any involvement in his death.

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