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Swiss detail extra security measures for Biden-Putin summit

UPDATED: Fri., June 11, 2021

By Jamey Keaten Associated Press

GENEVA — Swiss authorities plan to temporarily restrict airspace over the city of Geneva and to deploy up to 3,000 troops and police officers as part of extra security for the summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden next week.

Switzerland’s seven-member executive body, the Federal Council, approved temporary security measures Friday that include the deployment of up to 1,000 troops and airspace surveillance by the Swiss air force during Wednesday’s summit.

“Switzerland is obliged to ensure the protection of persons who enjoy special protection under international law, such as the American and Russian heads of state,” the Federal Department of Defense said.

The defense department said in a statement that commercial flights to and from Geneva’s airport would not be affected by the airspace restriction that runs from 8 a.m. Tuesday to 5 p.m. Thursday.

Col. Monica Bonfanti, the commander of the Geneva police department, said during a news conference outside the summit venue that 900 extra police officers would be called in from other Swiss regions, raising the police contingent in the city to about 2,000 including local officers.

Stephane Theimer, vice director of the Federal Office of Police, or fedpol, and head of the Federal Security Service, said the office had received no indication of threats or upheaval involving the summit. But he said “the terrorist threat remains high in Switzerland and Europe” and cited “other threats from extremist violent circles.”

“Naturally, the respective diasporas of the two countries could want to take advantage of the visit of their president to carry out actions,” Theimer said. “We are at a high level (of alert).”

Elaborating on his comments to The Associated Press, he said the meeting offered a “window of opportunity” for opponents/

“For the moment we don’t have any concrete sign when it comes to actions by the diaspora, but it’s something we’re taking into consideration,” Theimer said.

The extra troops will have roles in the protection of foreign emissaries and support for Geneva regional police in the air and on Lake Geneva, the defense department said.

Local authorities announced Thursday that the summit, part of Biden’s first overseas trip as president, will take place in an 18th-century manor house in a public park that looks out onto the lake.

The White House has played down expectations for the summit and said Biden plans to raise Ukraine, arms control, human rights and cyber ransomware attacks with Putin.

Russian officials have said their summit agenda includes strategic stability, global crises, climate change and efforts to counter the coronavirus pandemic.

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