Kerry to meet with Putin in Sochi, State Department says

State Department says Kerry will see Putin in Sochi on Tuesday; Kremlin spokesman says meeting not set yet

Secretary of State John F. Kerry will meet Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials in the southern Russia city of Sochi, a State Department spokeswoman said Monday.

The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed that Kerry would be meeting with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. However, the Sputnik news service quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying that a final decision on whether the top U.S. diplomat would meet with the Russian president had not yet been made.

“We will let you know if such a meeting takes place,” Peskov told Govorit Moskva radio station, Sputnik reported.

The visit would be Kerry's first to Russia since fighting in Ukraine broke out last year, with that ongoing conflict expected to be a central topic of conversation.

The trip "is part of our ongoing effort to maintain direct lines of communication with senior Russian officials and to ensure U.S. views are clearly conveyed," spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement released by the State Department.

The conflict in Ukraine has strained Russia's relationship with the West. Pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine rebelled against the nation's leadership in Kiev last spring after Russia seized the Crimean peninsula, leading to a series of sanctions against Russian officials and businesses by the U.S. and its allies.

Kerry's meeting will come two days after Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Moscow and urged Putin to press the Ukrainian separatists to "restore the sovereignty and territorial integrity" of Ukraine. More than 6,100 people, many of them civilians, have been killed in the conflict.

Harf said Kerry would return to Washington on Wednesday in time to join a dinner with President Obama and representatives of the Gulf Cooperation Council, who will be in Washington this week to discuss the conflict in Yemen and other issues.


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