US Secretary of State heads to Russia for talks with Putin and Lavrov

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov this week. Pompeo’s visit to Russia will take place in a time of discord between the two countries on a number of critical issues, including the situation in Venezuela and Iran as well as Russia's interference in the 2016 US elections.

Pompeo left for Moscow on Sunday. This will be his first visit to Russia as the leading representative of American diplomacy.

Top US officials, including Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence, accuse Russia of countering the efforts of Venezuelan interim president Juan Guaido, the democratically elected opposition leader, to overthrow regime of Nicolás Maduro.

The United States accuses Russia of using Venezuela to try and gain a foothold in the Western Hemisphere.

“We are concerned by Russian actions in Venezuela and believe that supporting Maduro is a lost cause. Therefore, we will continue to support the Venezuelan people, and this will be one of the topics for discussion,” said a senior State Department official the other day.

Pompeo will arrive in Russia on Monday. The same date he will meet with American diplomats at the US embassy in Moscow and with leaders of the American business community. He will also lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in memory of those who fought against Nazism.

On Tuesday, he will travel to Sochi where he will hold talks with Putin and Lavrov.

Pompeo’s visit will take place a few weeks before the G20 Summit in Japan’s Osaka which US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend.

“An improved relationship with Russia is in our interests,” the State Department spokesman said. “When a concern arises, we will discuss it directly, overcoming differences and finding areas in which we can cooperate.”

The official declined to say whether Trump and Putin plan to meet on the sidelines of the G-20 summit.

The State Department announced that Pompeo is expected to raise the issue of Americans in Russian custody, including former marine Paul Whelan and founder of the Baring Vostok investment fund Michael Calvey.

Whelan was charged with espionage, a charge he rejects. He will remain under arrest until May 28 while investigators continue to examine his case.

Calvey was arrested in February and is awaiting trial on fraud charges, which he denies.

“The administration makes it a top priority to ensure the safety and well-being of US citizens abroad. We are ready to provide the necessary consular assistance in cases of American citizens being detained,” said a senior State Department official.

  Pompeo, Russia, Putin, Lavrov