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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sobyanin Holds Talks in London

Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Sobyanin met with his British counterpart in London this week in an attempt to mend ties with the West ahead of the Group of Eight summit, The Times of London reported Wednesday.

In his first-ever interview with the foreign press, Sobyanin told The Times he was determined to defuse a growing war of words between Russia and the West that is threatening to undermine Russia's G8 presidency.

"The problems that have been highlighted recently in the media and political circles have been widely exaggerated," Sobyanin told The Times following a meeting with Jonathan Powell, British Prime Minister Tony Blair's chief of staff. "Our biggest problem is the rhetoric. We do have differences with our Western partners, but nothing of critical importance and certainly nothing that cannot be resolved through direct dialogue."

Ties between Russia and the United States reached their chilliest since the collapse of the Soviet Union after U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney chided Russia for its backtracking on democracy and what he called energy blackmail in a May 4 speech in Lithuania.

When Putin hit back in his state-of-the-nation address last week and called for a military build-up, relations appeared to have reached a new low.

Sobyanin told The Times that Russia would press ahead with its agenda to discuss global energy, terrorism, nuclear proliferation and the spread of infectious diseases, despite calls from U.S. officials to use the July summit in St. Petersburg to question Russia over democracy.

He also stressed that President Vladimir Putin would step down when his term expires in 2008. "All political careers must come to an end some day," he said. "Every leader would like to see to it that when his presidency comes to an end, his policies and ideas will be continued. Putin is no exception."

Igor Shuvalov, Russia's sherpa for the G8, also sought to ease tension at a briefing Tuesday as he stressed Russia's reliability as an energy supplier. "Maybe we haven't perfected our democracy, but we are an absolutely transparent, reliable supplier," he said.