United State Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Russia this week for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the State Department announced Monday. It will be Kerry?s first visit to Russia since the Ukraine crisis began.

Relations between Moscow and the West have been badly damaged over Ukraine. Western nations have accused Russia of supporting separatists there with arms and manpower ? a charge Moscow denies. Russia, meanwhile, has bristled at Washington?s pledge to provide Ukraine with military assistance in the form of hardware and training.

The State Department said Kerry will meet Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Tuesday. It?s Kerry?s second trip to Russia since taking office.

The announcement said Kerry will ?discuss a full range of bilateral and regional issues, including Iran, Syria, and Ukraine.?

The trip is part of a U.S. effort ?to maintain direct lines of communication with senior Russian officials and to ensure U.S. views are clearly conveyed,? the State Department said.

After his brief stop in Russia, Kerry will travel to Turkey for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers and return to Washington for a summit of Gulf Arab leaders that President Barack Obama is hosting at Camp David.

Kerry last visited Russia in May 2013.

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.

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