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Sec. Kerry to meet with Putin this week (+video)

The meeting will mark the first time representatives of the two nations will have met in person in over a year.

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US Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Russia on Tuesday to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin for talks aimed at mending relations driven to new post-Cold War lows by disagreements over Ukraine and Syria.

It will be Kerry's first trip to Russia since the start of the Ukraine crisis and only his second since taking office.

Kerry will meet Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the Black Sea resort of Sochi, the US State Department said Monday.

Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement that it hopes Kerry's visit will "normalize bilateral relations on which global stability largely depends."

Ukraine has served as the main source of discord in dialogue between Moscow and Washington.

Ukraine continues to be embroiled in a sporadic conflict between government and separatist rebel forces in its eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk despite a cease-fire agreement sealed in mid-February.

Western nations have accused Russia of supporting the separatists with arms and manpower — a claim that Moscow has denied.

Russia's foreign ministry on Monday instead blamed the United States for the unrest in Ukraine and said Washington was pursuing a policy of trying to isolate Russia on the international arena.

Russia has bristled at Washington's pledge to provide Ukraine with military assistance in the form of hardware and training.

In late April, troops from the United States and Ukraine kicked off joint training exercises intended to help bolster Ukraine's defenses. The exercises, dubbed "Fearless Guardian-2015," sparked an enraged reaction from Russia, which described them as a potential cause of destabilization.

During a visit to Moscow on Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Russia to use its influence to persuade separatists in Ukraine to abide by the oft-violated cease-fire.

Ukraine says more than 8,000 people have died in the conflict that began in April 2014.

Russia has stuck firmly to the line that the Ukrainian government retains the bulk of responsibility for bringing about a settlement.

"We will use all the influence we have on the leadership in Donetsk and Luhansk to ensure the process proceeds at the required pace and attains the necessary level," Putin told Merkel on Sunday.

Diplomats in Moscow and Washington remain at odds over a range of other international issues.

Russia last month announced it would lift a five-year ban on delivery of the S-300 air defense missile system to Iran, drawing a hasty rebuke from the United States.

The White House said the missile system would give the Islamic republic's military a strong deterrent against any air attack. The Kremlin argues that the S-300 is a purely defensive system that will not jeopardize the security of Israel or any other countries in the Middle East.

On Syria, Russia has defied a chorus of international condemnation to remain fast to the embattled regime of President Bashar Assad.

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