WASHINGTON, May 6 (RIA Novosti) – US Secretary of State John Kerry is planning to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow on Tuesday as part of a two-day trip to Russia this week that a senior US State Department official on Monday called part of “more intensified dialogue with the Russians at the highest levels.”
Kerry’s trip comes just ahead of the nationwide May 9 Victory Day celebrations to commemorate the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, widely considered the most important holiday in Russia, the official told reporters during a call.
“And so appropriately, we’re going to honor veterans, and I think we’ll even meet a few of them there,” the official said.
After the wreath-laying ceremony, Kerry is supposed to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, after which he will hold a “full bilateral meeting” with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the official said.
Kerry will discuss a range of bilateral issues, including Iran, North Korea, trade and counterterrorism cooperation in the wake of deadly Boston Marathon bombing last month that two men with ties to Russia’s mainly Muslim North Caucasus region have been accused of carrying out, the official said.
“For us and for … the Administration, it’s part of a sequence of what we see as more intensified dialogue with the Russians at the highest levels in the year 2013,” the official said.
The ongoing civil war in Syria will also be a key topic of discussion during Kerry’s trip, the official said. Washington and Moscow have been at loggerheads over the issue, with the United States insisting that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must step down and Russia warning that rebel forces are teeming with Islamic extremists.
“For obvious reasons, we’ve been discussing Syria with the Russians for the last couple years,” the senior State Department official said Monday. “But that dialogue is intensifying, given the state of affairs within Syria.”
On Wednesday, Kerry is scheduled to meet with “representatives from civil society” at Spaso House in Moscow, the permanent residence of Washington’s ambassador to Russia, the official said.
Russian officials have consistently criticized their American counterparts for meeting with members of Russian opposition groups in Moscow, suggesting that these meetings are aimed at undermining the country’s political framework.