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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rice Voices Concerns Ahead of Russia Trip

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, speaking before a visit to Moscow, said Thursday that she was troubled by the concentration of power in the Kremlin and said U.S.-Russian relations were in a "difficult period."

"As with any relationship, it is complicated," Rice, who leaves for her trip on Sunday, told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on foreign operations.

The United States is at loggerheads with Russia over a host of issues, including U.S. plans to install elements of a missile defense system in Europe. Moscow says the plan is a return to the Cold War period.

Washington has angered Russia and unsettled some European allies with its plan to deploy 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic from 2012 to help shield Europe from possible missile attack by nations such as Iran.

Rice did not mention tensions over the missile shield, which will likely be raised in her meetings with Moscow next week, but she criticized Russia for backsliding on reforms.

"Everybody around the world, in Europe and the United States, is very concerned about the internal course that Russia has taken in recent years," said Rice, referring to an erosion of press and other freedoms.

"The concentration of power in the Kremlin has been troubling," she added.

She said Russia also had problems accepting the U.S. relationship with neighbors such as Georgia and Ukraine, which were once part of the Soviet Union.

"We have tried to convince the Russians that the emergence of democracies on their borders, whether it is Georgia or Ukraine, would not be a problem, and that of course we will have good and sound relations with those countries," Rice told the committee.