BRUSSELS — Two days before he talks to Russia’s leader, President Joe Biden on Monday sought to tamp down expectations of the long-anticipated meeting by acknowledging that Vladimir Putin is a “worthy adversary.”

“I have met with him. He’s bright. He’s tough,” Biden said. “And I have found that he is a, as they used to say when I used to play ball, a worthy adversary.”

When Biden was asked whether he still thinks Putin is a killer, as he has previously said, the president laughed for several seconds.

“I believe he is, in the past, essentially acknowledged that he was, there were certain things that he would do or he did do,” he said. “But look, when I was asked that question on air, I answered it honestly. I don’t think it matters a whole lot in terms of this next meeting we’re about to have.”

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