Russian foreign minister to meet with Pompeo in DC next week

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Russia’s foreign minister will visit Washington next week for talks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, U.S. officials said Friday.

Pompeo will host Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday for talks that are expected to be followed by a joint news conference, two officials said. It was not immediately clear if Lavrov planned other meetings during the trip, which was first speculated about in Russian media Thursday. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the planned meeting.

The officials said Pompeo and Lavrov would discuss arms control, the situations in Ukraine and Syria and other issues related to tense U.S.-Russia relations. But the trip is likely to be overshadowed by Ukraine-related impeachment proceedings that are picking up steam in the House, as well as the release Monday of the Justice Department inspector general’s report into the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Lawmakers are expected to soon draft articles of impeachment that allege Trump abused his power by withholding military aid to Ukraine unless its new leader pledged to investigate the son of his political rival Joe Biden.

Although the impeachment inquiry centers on Ukraine, which is fighting Russian-backed separatists in its east, Russia has been a major topic in the proceedings. Numerous witnesses have told investigators that Trump’s defenders are echoing a Russian disinformation campaign by accusing Ukraine of meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump and his supporters have repeatedly called for investigations into alleged Ukrainian interference in the election despite the intelligence community’s conclusion that Moscow was behind it.

Pompeo and Lavrov have met several times in the past year, including in New York and in Russia. They have spoken by phone infrequently but have not held face-to-face talks in Washington.

Pompeo was not secretary of state the last time Lavrov was in Washington, when the Russian diplomat visited the White House with the former Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, and had a meeting with Trump in May 2017. That meeting occurred a day after Trump had fired then-FBI director James Comey, a move that led to the investigation into Russian meddling in the election by special counsel Robert Mueller.

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