U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin with an eye on easing badly strained relations over conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.

Kerry was to lay a wreath at a World War II memorial in the Black Sea resort city before meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Putin on the brief visit, his first to Russia since May 2013.

U.S. officials say Kerry planned to test Putin's willingness to push pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine to comply with an increasingly fragile ceasefire. Kerry will also seek to gauge the status of Russia's support for embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose forces have been losing ground to rebels, the officials say.

After several hours in Sochi, Kerry will depart for a NATO meeting in Turkey.