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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 March, 2005, 09:19 GMT
Putin to make first Israel visit
Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russia's ties with Israel have been strained in recent months
Russian President Vladimir Putin will make the first visit by a Russian or Soviet leader to Israel at the end of April, Israeli officials say.

Mr Putin will meet Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and top Israeli officials, spokesman Ron Ben-Yishai said.

Russia is a member of the diplomatic group known as the Quartet of mediators for Middle East peacemaking, along with the US, the UN and the EU.

They sponsored the stalled "roadmap" peace plan for a Palestinian state.

It was not clear if Mr Putin would also meet Palestinian officials during the visit on 27 and 28 April.

Israeli-Russian relations have improved greatly in the past 15 years since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Mr Sharon, who is of Russian descent, has visited Moscow three times since taking office in 2001.

However, ties between the two countries have been strained in recent months over a Russian decision to consider supplying Syria with missiles.

Israeli President Moshe Katsav is said to have invited Mr Putin while the two men were in Poland to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp.

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