Souvenir matryoshka dolls depicting Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, left, and Donald Trump, U.S. president, sit on display at a tourist stall in Saint Petersburg, Russia (Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg)  

U.S. Lawmakers in Russia Hope Putin-Trump Talks Improve Ties

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. Republican lawmakers met Russia’s foreign minister and parliamentary counterparts in Moscow on Tuesday, expressing hopes that a presidential summit this month will ease tensions.

While U.S.-Russia ties are “strained,” the two countries have “some common interests around the world that we could hopefully work together on,” Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) told Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. “We are competitors, but we don’t necessarily need to be adversaries.”

The lawmakers’ visit may “symbolize the resumption of relations between our two parliaments,” said Lavrov, who made his welcoming remarks in English. It’s a “very timely” event ahead of the July 16 summit in Helsinki between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump, he said.

The senators and one House member later met the speaker of the Russian lower house of parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, who said the relationship was “practically at zero,” the Interfax news service reported.

The visit comes as Putin and Trump prepare for their first summit amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Russia over alleged Kremlin meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and over the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria. Trump’s repeatedly said he wants to improve ties with Russia. U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton met with Putin at the Kremlin last week to lay the groundwork for the talks.

Members of the delegation said before the trip that they hoped to speak with the Russian president. Putin has no plans to meet with the group, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call Tuesday.

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