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Kerry to hold talks with Russian president Putin this week

FILE - In this May 6, 2015 file photo, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Mahamoud Ali Youssouf at the Presidential Palace, in Dijbouti, Dijbouti. The State Department says Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Russia this week for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Russia this week for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kerry’s first visit to Russia since the Ukraine crisis began, the State Department announced Monday.

Relations between Moscow and the West have been badly damaged over Ukraine, with Western nations accusing Russia of supporting separatists there with arms and manpower — a charge Moscow denies. Russia, meanwhile, has bristled at Washington’s pledge to provide Ukraine with military assistance in the form of hardware and training.

The State Department said Kerry will meet Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Tuesday. It’s Kerry’s second trip to Russia since taking office.

The announcement said Kerry will “discuss a full range of bilateral and regional issues, including Iran, Syria, and Ukraine.”

The trip is part of an ongoing U.S. effort “to maintain direct lines of communication with senior Russian officials and to ensure U.S. views are clearly conveyed,” the State Department said.

After his brief stop in Russia, Kerry will travel to Turkey for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers and return to Washington for a summit of Gulf Arab leaders that President Barack Obama is hosting at Camp David.

Kerry last visited Russia in May 2013.

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