US President Joe Biden has warned Russian leader Vladimir Putin about interfering in the election in their first call as a peer, the White House said.
The talk included a discussion of ongoing opposition protests in Russia and an extension of the last nuclear weapons agreement between the United States and Russia.
Putin congratulated the new president of the United States on winning the election, according to a statement in Russian.
Both sides said they agreed to maintain contact going forward.
Former US President Donald Trump sometimes undermined his own Russian administration’s hard posture and was accused of being overly protective of Putin.
But former President Barack Obama – under whom Biden was vice president – was criticized for failing to check the Kremlin as it annexed Crimea, invading eastern Ukraine and mustering in on Syria.
“President Biden made it clear that the United States will take firm action to defend its national interests in response to Russian actions that harm us or our allies,” said a US statement.
A reading in the White House of Tuesday afternoon’s call said the two presidents also discussed the massive SolarWinds cyber-attack, which has been blamed on Moscow, reports that the Kremlin imposed bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and poisoned opposition Russian activist Alexei Navalny.
The Kremlin’s reading of the call made no reference to any friction points the White House said Biden raised.
Russian officials said Putin had “indicated that normalizing relations between Russia and the United States would meet the interests of both countries and – considering their special responsibility for maintaining security and stability in the world – the entire international community”.
“Overall, the conversation between Russian and US leaders was of a business-like nature,” the Kremlin statement added.
The two leaders seemed to seal a deal to renew New Start, an Obama-era agreement that limits the amount of warheads, missiles and launchers in US-Russian nuclear arsenals.
It was due to expire next month, and Trump had refused to sign.
The call with the Kremlin comes as Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, is confirmed by Parliament by a vote of 78-22.
Biden later appeared in the White House to sign four executive orders aimed at addressing what he called systemic racism of the United States.
“This is the time to act and it is to act because that is what the core values of this nation call upon us to do. I think the vast majority of Democrats, Republicans and Independents share these values and want us to take action as well, ”Biden said.
The president instructed the Justice Department not to renew contracts with private prison operators, although advocates have noted that the order does not include private immigration detention centers. (BBC)