(RIA Novosti – MOSCOW, April 4, 2013) Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Barack Obama will hold full-fledged talks on the sidelines of the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland in June, a Putin aide said on Thursday.
The possibility of “contacts in connection with Obama’s participation in a G20 summit” is also under consideration, presidential aide Yury Ushakov said.
The question of a possible visit to Moscow by Obama will be discussed with US National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Ushakov said.
“I believe Donilon will come to Moscow and issue some signals in that regard,” he said.
Putin has no plans to meet with Donilon himself, he added.
Ushakov said in mid-March that Donilon would arrive in Moscow on April 15 to discuss a new configuration of the US missile defense system.
The US-Russia “reset” has been strained by a number of issues, including missile defense, the Magnitsky Act, international adoptions and the conflict in Syria.
One of the thorniest issues in US-Russian relations in recent years has been Moscow’s virulent opposition to the deployment of a NATO missile shield in Eastern Europe.
However, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced in mid-March that plans for the final stage of Central European-based missile shields are to be scrapped and that interceptors will instead be placed in Alaska.
The US says that the positioning of interceptors in Alaska and an additional radar station in Japan are designed to provide further coverage from any possible missiles launched from North Korea, but Russia worries that any missile defense program undermines the integrity of its own military strategy.
Russia says it is pressing for “legally binding agreements guaranteeing that US missile defense elements are not aimed against Russia’s strategic nuclear forces.”
Another bone of contention that has crippled bilateral ties was the US Congress’ passage late last year of the Magnitsky Act, a law introducing sanctions for Russian officials deemed guilty of human rights abuses. Russia retaliated by banning American adoptions of Russian children.
Both the White House and the State Department had opposed the Magnitsky law. But Russian officials and state-run media responded with a new wave of anti-American sentiment, stoked by the February death of an adopted Russian toddler in Texas.
Ushakov said in mid-March that Moscow would unveil its own list of alleged US rights violators, should Washington proceed with moves to penalize a range of Russian officials, referring to the imminent publication of the so-called “Magnitsky List,” which envisions visa bans and the freezing of U.S. bank accounts of Russian officials suspected of rights abuses.
The anti-US “Dima Yakovlev List” has received resounding support from the ruling United Russia party. The list is named after a Russian-born toddler who died in the US in 2008 after being left in an overheated car by his American adoptive father.
The proposed Russian blacklist also known as the “Guantanamo List” was drawn up last fall in response to the Magnitsky Act and initially listed 11 US officials allegedly implicated in human rights violations at the Guantanamo Bay facility in Cuba and in secret CIA prisons across Europe.
The Magnitsky Act, which was approved by the White House in December, was initially aimed at officials allegedly linked to the death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a pre-trial detention facility in 2009.
About 70,000 people have died in Syria since the start of the uprising against President Assad in March 2011, according to UN figures. Russia, along with China, has faced widespread condemnation over its refusal to approve UN sanctions against Assad’s regime.
Moscow has repeatedly said that it has no interest in seeing Assad remain in power, but that it is concerned that unilateral sanctions leading to his downfall could create a power vacuum and lead to more violence.