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Kerry, Putin to meet in Russia

Kerry, Putin to meet in Russia

Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryOvernight Energy: Republicans request documents on Kerry's security clearance process| EPA official directs agency to ramp up enforcement in overburdened communities | Meet Flint prosecutor Kym Worthy Republicans request documents on Kerry's security clearance process Feehery: Biden seems intent on repeating the same mistakes of Jimmy Carter MORE will travel to Sochi, Russia this week to meet with President Vladimir Putin, his first trip to the country since the start of the Ukrainian crisis.

Kerry will meet with Putin, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and other officials on Tuesday to discuss regional issues, including Iran, Syria and Ukraine, according to the State Department.

"This 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," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement Monday.

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The United States and other Western countries have hit Russia with economic sanctions, accusing Moscow of supporting separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. Russia strongly denies those charges and is bristling at U.S. moves to train Ukrainian troops.

The Ukrainian government says more than 8,000 people have died in a conflict between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists since April 2014, according to The Associated Press.

Tuesday's meeting represents a new attempt by the Obama administration to work with Russia on other areas of mutual interest, specifically ending the deadly civil war in Syria, The New York Times reported.

Harf told reporters Monday that Syria was "one of the main topics" as the Obama administration pushes the Assad regime to relinquish power. 

She also mentioned the nearing June 30 deadline to secure an international accord over Iran's nuclear program and "continued aggression" by Russia to Ukraine as topics for discussion.

The Russian Foreign Affairs ministry issued a lengthy statement claiming "the White House groundlessly blamed Russia for the Ukrainian crisis, which in fact was largely provoked by the United States itself."

"Just because we disagree strongly on something doesn't mean we should not talk about it," Harf said, brushing off the statement.

After his Sochi visit, Kerry will travel to Antalya, Turkey, on Wednesday to meet with his counterparts at a NATO meeting before returning to Washington to attend meetings between leaders of Arab allied nations and President Obama at the White House.

This story was updated at 2:07 p.m.