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Estonian President Meets With Putin On Rare Visit To Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with his Estonian counterpart Kersti Kaljulaid at the Kremlin in Moscow on April 18.

Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid held talks in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 18, the first visit by an Estonian leader to Russia in eight years.

Kaljulaid, who went to Moscow for the opening of the new Estonian Embassy, told Putin that "neighbors should talk, even if we have certain disagreements."

Putin told the visiting president that "the lack of contact between official people, official state institutions, and between neighbors is not a normal situation."

Relations between the former Soviet republic and Russia have been chilled for many years. Moscow opposed Tallinn's joining of the EU and NATO in 2004 and Russia's seizure of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula has led to concerns in the Baltic state of further Russian expansion in the Baltics.

Kaljulaid is the first Baltic state leader to meet with Putin in Russia since Moscow's 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Putin noted that trade between Estonia -- a country of just 1.3 million -- and Russia has gone down by 50 percent since 2014, when the EU imposed financial sanctions against Moscow for the Crimea takeover and Russia's support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Kaljulaid has been criticized in Estonia for meeting with Putin.

The Estonian president called for U.S. troops and Patriot missiles to be deployed to Estonia, where NATO recently placed a nearly 1,000-strong battle group led by British soldiers.

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were occupied and annexed by Moscow during World War II.

Based on reporting by AFP and Interfax