US President Joe Biden has warned Russian leader Vladimir Putin about election meddling in their first call as counterparts, the White House says.
The conversation included a discussion about the ongoing opposition protests in Russia and an extension of the last remaining US-Russia nuclear arms pact.
Putin congratulated the new US president on winning the election, according to a Russian statement.
Both parties said they agreed to maintain contact moving forward.
Former US President Donald Trump sometimes undercut his own administration’s tough posture on Russia and was accused of being too deferential to Putin.
But former President Barack Obama – under whom Biden served as vice-president – was also criticised for failing to check the Kremlin as it annexed Crimea, invaded eastern Ukraine and muscled in on Syria.
“President Biden made clear that the United States will act firmly in defence of its national interests in response to actions by Russia that harm us or our allies,” a US statement said.
A White House readout of Tuesday afternoon’s call said that the two presidents also discussed the massive SolarWinds cyber-attack, which has been blamed on Moscow, reports that the Kremlin placed bounties on US soldiers in Afghanistan, and the poisoning of Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny.
The Kremlin readout of the call did not refer to any points of friction the White House said had been raised by Biden.
Russian officials said Putin had “noted that the normalisation of relations between Russia and the United States would meet the interests of both countries and – taking into account their special responsibility for maintaining security and stability in the world – of the entire international community”.
“On the whole, the conversation between the leaders of Russia and the United States was of a business-like and frank nature,” the Kremlin statement added.
The two leaders appeared to seal an agreement to renew New Start, an Obama-era accord that limits the amounts of warheads, missiles and launchers in the US-Russian nuclear arsenals.
It was due to expire next month, and Trump had refused to sign on.
The call with the Kremlin comes as Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, was confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 78-22.
Biden later appeared at the White House to sign four executive orders aimed at addressing what he called US systemic racism.
“This is the time to act and it’s to act because it’s what the core values of this nation call us to do. I believe the vast majority of Democrats, Republicans and Independents share these values and want us to act as well,” said Biden.
The president directed the Department of Justice not to renew contracts with private prison operators, though advocates noted the order does not cover privately run immigration detention centres. (BBC)