For months, Evgeny Popov dreamed of humiliating U.S. President Joe Biden at the summit with Vladimir Putin in Geneva on Wednesday. He arrived early, received a press pass, and paced the lawn in front of Villa La Grange, waiting for the opportunity to sink his teeth into the adversary. But it was not to be.
Shortly before the summit commenced, Russian journalists were notified that they would not be allowed to question Biden at the press conference. Popov’s press credentials, issued for some unknown reason in the name of “Andrey Kolesnikov,” would not come in handy after all.
Red-faced and angry, Popov complained about Russian reporters not being able to join the U.S. press pool, framing it as a grave injustice. “I didn’t see a single Russian journalist with the American press pool! Americans aren’t allowing any Russians near them. This is unfair!,” he fumed to the camera. Instead of grilling Biden in person, Popov was stuck behind the striped red and white police line barricade tape. “Would you look at that?” he lamented, lifting it up for all to see.
Popov is the host of the popular Russian state TV program 60 Minutes, often featuring pro-Kremlin loyalists with a boisterous barrage of propaganda—twice a day, five days a week. For months, Popov and his wife Olga Skabeeva, the co-host of 60 Minutes, savored the idea of humiliating Biden at the press conference following his summit with Putin.
In April, Popov and Skabeeva excitedly discussed the prospect of Russian reporters “tormenting Joe Biden for a long time” during the press conference. Skabeeva wondered out loud: “Will he fall apart on the way there?” Rumors of Biden’s “dementia” permeated Russian state media, along with video clips of his accidental stumbling, played on repeat in endless loops. Popov and Skabeeva contributed to the spread of those conspiracy theories, fueling the misinformation campaign about the U.S. president being “frail” and “demented.”
In May, Popov said on 60 Minutes: “Biden is not canceling the summit with Putin, not stopping Nord Stream 2 and not adding any new sanctions. It seems like he’s afraid that Russia will knock his teeth out.” Popov was referring to Putin’s bellicose posturing, wherein he threatened to knock out the teeth of Russia’s enemies.
The story of a U.S. president running scared from his Russian counterpart continued in Geneva, with Russian state media claiming that Biden was “obviously nervous.” To the naked eye, the opposite was true, as both world leaders appeared comfortable and well-prepared.
On the day of the summit, Popov bent down to touch the non-skid rugs, customarily laid out for important events and visiting dignitaries, and claimed on-air that they were laid down “especially for Biden.” The same propaganda narrative was echoed all over the Russian state media, alleging that multiple rugs were placed inside and outside of Villa La Grange just “to make sure that Biden doesn’t fall.”
As the summit progressed, Skabeeva was still daydreaming: “Imagine Russian journalists at the White House, torturing Joe Biden.” Popov immediately jumped in and loudly demanded: “Let me into the White House!” Far from the White House, Popov never managed to get near Biden, although he extracted brief comments from Vladimir Putin and Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s Chief of the General Staff for the Armed Forces.
Appearing on 60 Minutes in the same broadcast, war criminal Zakhar Prilepin described Gerasimof as a “prototypical Russian General who destroys America in Hollywood blockbusters.” Popov loudly laughed and agreed with Prilepin, who proceeded to claim that the Americans weren’t allowing Russian journalists to participate because the U.S. side is “nervous.”
“Biden can say whatever he wants, because our journalists aren’t there,” Lawmaker Aleksey Zhuravlyov fussed. “Pindosy are our enemies,” he declared, using a derogatory anti-American slur.
Adding to the general feeling of disappointment in the studio, Alexei Naumov from the Russian International Affairs Council was the only one who relented: Naumov admitted that the summit forever “demolished” the illusion of Biden’s alleged “dementia.”
Skabeeva angrily pondered: “Who will take jabs at Biden if only their own journalists received accreditation? Even Fox News isn’t there and there aren’t any Russian journalists.”
“This is an injustice! It needs to be corrected,” asserted Popov, wildly gesticulating into the camera. At that moment, he was perhaps one of the attendees who could relate to Putin’s bizarre, existential assertion at the summit: that “there is no happiness in life.”