The Russian Defense Ministry says Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman have discussed bilateral relations and international security issues during a meeting on November 2.
The meeting took place at the Defense Ministry in Moscow, a short statement said. It did not provide further details. Huntsman took up his post in Moscow last month at a time of severe tension between Russia and the United States.
Ties are badly strained over issues including Russia's aggression in Ukraine, its actions in Syria, and what the U.S. intelligence community says was a concerted attempt to meddle in the U.S. presidential election in 2016.
Receiving Huntsman’s credentials at a Kremlin ceremony on October 3, Putin voiced dissatisfaction with state of bilateral relations and said that Russia wants “constructive, predictable, and mutually advantageous cooperation," but gave no indication whether Moscow plans to take steps in that direction.
Speaking on October 7, the new U.S. ambassador to Russia said that he wants to improve relations with Russia, but he insisted the first step would be for Moscow to return Ukrainian control to territory within its internationally recognized borders.
"This is an issue not only with the United States, but with Europe, Canada, and virtually every other developed country," said Huntsman.
Moscow illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region in March 2014 and supports separatists in eastern Ukraine in war that has killed more than 10,000 people since April 2014.
The United States, other Western countries, and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia for its actions in Ukraine.
In late July, Russia ordered the United States to cut the number of diplomatic personnel in Russia to 455 by September 1 -- a reduction of about two-thirds -- after the U.S. Congress approved legislation tightening sanctions against Russia..
The United States responded by ordering Russia to vacate its consulate in San Francisco and trade annexes in Washington and New York, steps intended to produce parity in the sizes of the Russian and U.S. diplomatic missions.