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CIA director makes rare trip to Moscow for talks on Russia-U.S. ties

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CIA Director William Burns testifies during a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing about worldwide threats, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, U.S., April 14, 2021. Saul Loeb/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

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MOSCOW, Nov 2 (Reuters) - CIA director William Burns is making a rare visit to Moscow to discuss U.S.-Russia relations, the latest in a series of high-level contacts that show both sides want to keep talking despite mutual distrust and a long list of disputes.

A U.S. Embassy spokesperson said Burns was leading a delegation of senior U.S. officials to Moscow on Tuesday and Wednesday at President Joe Biden's request.

"They are meeting with members of the Russian government to discuss a range of issues in the bilateral relationship," the spokesperson said.

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Russia's Security Council said Burns, a Russian-speaker and former ambassador to Moscow, held talks with Nikolai Patrushev, the council's secretary and a former head of Russia's FSB intelligence service.

Neither side gave details of the conversation, but security issues loom large in their troubled relationship.

Ties have hit a series of post-Cold War lows over issues including Russian-based cyberattacks against U.S. targets, Moscow's support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the jailing of opposition politician Alexei Navalny and Russia's behaviour towards Ukraine, from which it seized the Crimea peninsula in 2014. read more

Biden sent a top Russia expert, Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, to Moscow for talks last month that failed to yield any progress in a dispute between the two countries over the sizes of their respective embassies.

Biden met Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit in Geneva in June, and said at the time it would take six months to a year to find out whether the two countries could establish a meaningful strategic dialogue.

Putin frequently criticises the United States but said last month he had established a constructive relationship with Biden. The Kremlin has said a further meeting between the two this year is a realistic possibility. read more

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Reporting by Polina Devitt and Tom Balmforth; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Alison Williams

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