Media scrum gets nasty as leaders look on in frosty silence

If relations between the US and Russian press are anything to go by, then the two nations have a real problem.

hile Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin sat in frosty silence, the media contingents from their respective countries were involved in an unseemly scuffle with one another and officials. “Don’t touch me. Stop pushing me,” an American journalist screamed repeatedly. Others tripped over cords and one fell to the ground.

The US and Russian presidents looked vaguely amused by the scene. It was one thing, at least, they agreed on.

Swiss officials in the library of Villa La Grange tried to remain neutral, but had never seen anything like it. “This is an 18th-century building,” one lamented.

The leaders’ photo opportunity was meant to be a quick event before the summit at which neither leader would speak. Problems began when the American delegation of 13 reporters, photographers and TV cameramen arrived at a narrow side entrance to find their Russian counterparts already there.

US officials could be heard yelling: “Stop pushing. Move back.” Delivering updates in real time, a member of the US press said: “We are not being allowed in because everyone is pushing and shoving. Authorities have threatened to keep us out. There’s an extremely ­chaotic scene at the door.”

Nine of the 13 US journalists, and some Russian ones, were eventually allowed inside. But the Russians accused the Americans of trying to get too many in. One said: “The Americans didn’t go through their door – they caused a stampede.”

Once inside, chaos reigned as a US journalist shouted to Mr Biden to ask whether he trusted Mr Putin. The reporter then communicated that Mr Biden “looked me in the eye and nodded affirmatively”.

As US TV networks began reporting a new breakthrough in relations, the White House denied it, saying Mr Biden had just been acknowledging the journalists’ presence.

After minutes of jostling, while Mr Putin and Mr Biden ignored each other, exasperated local officials and Russian security started shoving the reporters. “Go away. Go away,” one shouted. Mr Biden later began his press conference by saying: “There was no problem getting through those doors, was there?” (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd 2021)

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