Japan's prime minister heads to Russia for talks with Putin

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Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is heading to Russia for talks with President Vladimir Putin, in hopes of making progress on joint economic projects on disputed islands as a step toward resolving the decades-old territorial row.

Abe said Thursday he hoped to talk heart-to-heart with Putin to achieve progress on the island issue and eventually sign a peace treaty. Abe also plans to reaffirm Russia's cooperation in efforts to rid North Korea of nuclear weapons.

Abe has been pushing for a way forward in the dispute over the Russian-held islands that Japan also claims. The row has kept the two countries from signing a peace treaty formally ending their WWII hostilities.

And he's also bringing a gift — a Japanese "Akita" puppy for Pyeongchang Olympic figure skating champion Alina Zagitova.