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Kerry’s meeting with Putin: Why it’s so important

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's trip to Russia, only his second since taking office, may be one of the most important journeys of his career.

He is expected to meet Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, where the Winter Olympics were held in 2014.

Is this a sign that the froideur between the U.S. and Russia, over the latter's apparent role in the war in Ukraine, is thawing?

Here, we take a look at why this particular trip is so significant.


Middle Eastern mess

Both Russia and the U.S. are worried that the conflict in Syria will spread even further. With Islamic militants recruiting from both of their countries, there are serious concerns that this could lead to attacks on their own soil.

This is ostensibly the main reason for Kerry's trip and comes after years of attempts to find a solution. In Europe, the human cost of the conflict can be seen in the deaths of desperate migrants from the war zone trying to cross the Mediterranean.

Coming in from the cold?

The Secretary of State isn't the only high-profile figure to make the trip East this week. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, attended Russia's lavish VE celebrations, which commemorate the end of the Second World War in Europe. She may not have been pictured smiling or looking at all happy to be there – and she rapped Russia's knuckles over the behaviour of pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine - but she was there.

This move from the leader of the biggest economy in the EU suggests that Russia may be (very slowly) moving from near-pariah status to partner again.

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Joshua Roberts | AFP | Getty Images


Russia’s recession

…is not far off. This week, preliminary growth figures for the Russian economy in the first three months of 2015 are expected to show a decline of over 2 percent.

Any easing of the sanctions imposed by the West over the Ukrainian conflict which have affected growth (along with the devalued ruble and oil price) would be welcome.

Timing

The scheduling of this trip is interesting for a number of reasons – it's just after the VE day celebrations (and Kerry has laid a wreath as part of it) which makes the absence from the day itself less pointed.

Tuesday is also the day when a controversial report by Boris Nemtsov, the recently murdered Russian opposition leader, into the Ukrainian conflict is published by Nemtsov's allies.

Read MoreThe death of Boris Nemtsov

Called "Putin: War," it is expected to be sharply critical of the administration. Meeting Kerry may help provide a distraction for media both inside and outside Russia.

- By CNBC's Catherine Boyle