Conflict in Ukraine

Associated Press
A Ukrainian serviceman rides a bicycle in Shyrokyne, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, April 15, 2015.  Russia and Ukraine agreed in Berlin on Monday to call for the pullback of smaller-caliber weapons from the front lines of the conflict that has claimed more than 6,000 lives. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

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President Vladimir Putin is expected Tuesday to host US Secretary of State John Kerry for crucial talks in Sochi amid tensions over Ukraine, during the top US diplomat's first visit to Russia since the start of the crisis.

Ties between Moscow and Washington collapsed after Russia seized Crimea and buttressed separatists in eastern Ukraine but after a year of raging tensions signs are emerging that both Russia and the West may be ready to seek detente.

President Vladimir Putin has refused to budge on Ukraine but has signalled his readiness to mend ties with Washington and Brussels as Russia chafes under the burden of biting Western sanctions.

The US State Department said on Monday that Kerry would meet with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and Putin, who is spending the week at his summer residence in Sochi.

Last year's popular uprising in Ukraine that ousted a Kremlin-backed president sparked a diplomatic crisis and led Moscow to wrest the peninsula of Crimea from Kiev's control and support Russian-speaking separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Kiev and the West accuse Putin's Kremlin of masterminding the conflict that has killed more than 6,100 people in just over a year, and have slapped several rounds of sanctions against Russia. (AFP)


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