World / Politics

Arms on Putin's agenda before Mike Pompeo meeting

AFP-JIJI

Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to visit a top military flight test center and inspect new weaponry on Tuesday, hours before he meets U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the Kremlin said.

Pompeo will visit Putin in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi for the highest-level talks between Moscow and Washington in nearly a year.

Ahead of the negotiations Putin will visit one of Russia’s leading military aircraft testing centers in the southern Astrakhan region, the Kremlin said on Monday.

“The head of state will be shown aircraft already in production and prototype weapons,” the Kremlin added.

During the Sochi meeting, Pompeo is expected to push for progress on arms control as well as the Venezuela crisis.

The two are expected to meet Tuesday evening, according to the current schedule.

A key bilateral accord, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, has collapsed this year after the United States pulled out over charges that a Russian missile system violated it.

Putin and Pompeo are also expected to discuss the fate of the New START treaty, which caps the number of nuclear warheads at well below Cold War limits.

The agreement is set to expire in 2021 and Trump has called for a broader agreement to succeed it, to include a rising China.

Last year Putin revealed a new generation of “invincible” nuclear weapons and warned of a new arms race if America pulled out of weapons treaties.

This will be the highest-level U.S. engagement with the Russian leader since a summit in July last year in Helsinki, after which U.S. President Donald Trump faced widespread criticism at home for his conciliatory tone toward the Russian leader.

Putin was also set to address defense issues on Monday, spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, when he was scheduled to visit an aircraft manufacturer in the southwestern city of Kazan and then chair a government meeting.

The country’s aviation industry is under renewed scrutiny after 41 people died in a fire when a Russian-built Sukhoi Superjet passenger plane crashed during an emergency landing in Moscow in early May.