U.S. Secretary John Kerry is meeting with President Vladimir Putin Tuesday during his visit to Russia.
“It’s important to try to talk to the senior decision-maker,” an unnamed senior State Department official told CNN, referring to Kerry’s first visit to Russia in two years at a time when the two world powers are not seeing eye-to-eye. “We have an opportunity to do that.”
Kerry and Putin are expected to discuss “a full range of bilateral and regional issues, including Iran, Syria and the threat from ISIS, Yemen, Libya and Ukraine,” according to the official.
The Kremlin confirmed Kerry’s one-on-one meeting with the Russian leader, the Associated Press (AP) reports: “We have repeatedly stated at various levels and the president has said that Russia never initiated the freeze in relations and we are always open for displays of political will for a broader dialogue,” Dmitry Peskov told journalists in Sochi.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry previewed the meeting in a statement by blaming the U.S. for the strained relations: “The Obama administration chose the path of scaling back bilateral relations, proclaimed a course of isolating Russia on the international arena and demanded that those states that traditionally follow the lead of Washington support its confrontational steps,” the Ministry said, adding that the Ukraine crisis “was largely provoked by the United States itself.”
Citing U.S. officials traveling with him, AP reports that the U.S. Secretary of State plans to test Putin’s willingness to convince pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine to abide by an increasingly fragile truce agreement. Kerry will emphasize “the vital importance of full and fast and complete implementation of the Minsk agreements,” the unnamed state department official told CNN, alluding to a suspension of hostilities deal reached in Minsk, Belarus, earlier this year.
The official added:
We’ve been very, very clear publicly that if Minsk is fully implemented, when it’s fully implemented, including restoration of the sovereign border, there’ll be an opportunity to roll back sanctions. We’ve also made clear that if there is–are more serious violations that the pressure will increase.
U.S.-Russia relations have deteriorated in large part due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
Like many in the West, the U.S. accuses Russia of equipping and supporting pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine, as well as deploying its own forces into Ukraine, claims that the Kremlin denies. In 2014, Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region.
The U.S. and European Union have imposed financial sanctions against Russian interests in an effort to pressure Moscow into suspending its activities in Ukraine.
The meeting marks a “critical moment” to move forward on Ukraine and try to bring the conflict to an end, the official told CNN.
Ukraine has received nearly $130 million in nonlethal security aid from the United States, which is helping to train the Ukrainian National Guard in the western part of the country.