MOSCOW (AP) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin has told Barack Obama in an Independence Day message that he hopes the countries can improve relations.<br />
In a statement published on the Kremlin website on Friday, Putin said "regardless of difficulties and disagreements" he hoped that Russia and the U.S. could "successfully develop relations on pragmatic and equal grounds."<br />
Relations between Russia and the U.S. have deteriorated as the two countries have struggled to find common ground in Ukraine, where Russia annexed the Black Sea region of Crimea in March and a conflict in the east of the country has claimed over 400 lives.<br />
The United States reacted by imposing sanctions on some of Putin's associates, and has threatened to take further action.
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
House Republican leaders rallied around one of their own, Whip Steve Scalise, on Tuesday after he said he regrets speaking 12 years ago to a white supremacist organization and condemns the views of such groups.
Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, released Wednesday a list of 11 potential Supreme Court justices he plans to vet to fill the seat of late Justice Antonin Scalia if he's elected to the White House.