Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian president-elect Petro Poroshenko on Friday held their first face-to-face talks on the sidelines of a D-Day anniversary event in France and discussed a possible ceasefire agreement in Ukraine, a French official said.
The meeting hosted by French President Francois Hollande, before D-Day celebrations on Friday, took place as clashes continued in eastern Ukraine near a border crossing with Russia, killing at least 15 pro-Russian separatists overnight.
Putin and Poroshenko reportedly discussed steps for a potential ceasefire during their 15-minute meeting.
It was the first meeting between the two men since pro-western chocolate tycoon Poroshenko won Ukraine\’s presidential election on May 25.
"They were able to begin a dialogue on possible de-escalation measures including Moscow recognising Poroshenko\’s election," an aide to Hollande said, underlining that Putin would be sending an ambassador to Kiev on Saturday.
"The practicalities of a ceasefire will also be discussed in the coming days."
Discussion ranged from the economic consequences of the Ukraine crisis to a possible ceasefire, Reuters reported, adding on Twitter that the office of French President Francois Hollande said Putin and Poroshenko shook hands.
Reports said the meeting had been prepared during several days of contacts but kept secret until it happened.
Hollande invited Poroshenko to Normandy as his personal guest at the last minute in an effort to break the ice between Moscow and Kiev.
U.S. President Barack Obama and President Putin held brief talks on the sidelines of D-Day anniversary celebrations in Normandy, Hollande\’s office said on Friday.
A White House official confirmed that an "informal\’\’ meeting had taken place, saying it had lasted 10 to 15 minutes.
A day earlier, he met British Prime Minister David Cameron and Hollande to discuss Moscow\’s role in the unrest.
Violence continued in the region late Thursday. Kyiv officials said at least 15 rebels were killed in clashes near the border with Russia.
At a G7 meeting in Brussels earlier Thursday, leaders warned that more economic sanctions could come within weeks if the Kremlin fails to curb its support for the rebels.
The United States and Britain have been the leading proponents of sanctions on Russian businesses and individuals in Putin\’s inner circle — but both countries have so far stopped short of harsher penalties on key Russian economic sectors.
France and Germany, which maintain strong energy and trade ties with Russia, have been less aggressive in their public statements.
The Brussels summit was originally scheduled as a G8 in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi. But after Russia annexed Ukraine\’s Crimean peninsula in March, Western powers rejected Putin\’s invitation and moved the summit to Brussels.
World leaders and veterans gathered by the beaches of Normandy under clear blue skies on Friday to mark the 70th anniversary of World War Two\’s D-Day landings, with host France hoping the event will help bring a thaw in the Ukraine crisis.
In a speech at Omaha Beach on the coast of Normandy, France, Obama hailed the troops whom he said "gave so much for the survival of liberty at its moment of maximum peril."
In his speech, President Obama praised the veterans who took part in D-Day for changing the course of human history, saying it is important their story is "seared into the memory of the future world."
Opening the ceremony, French President Francois Hollande also said the sacrifice of the soldiers "changed the world."
"We owe it to the memory of those who died for us, and we also owe it — with regards to the willingness of France — to be present everywhere, aware that it comes with a long history and that it still has a destiny to fulfill for the fate of the whole world," said Hollande.
Thousands of veterans are taking part in the ceremony in Normandy, where Allied troops landed on the beach in what was the largest sea assault in history.
Some veterans, including American Jim Martin of the 101st airborne, marked the occasion by holding a reenactment parachute jump on Thursday.
"Was it different?" a reporter asked him after making the jump.
"Oh yes, nobody shooting at me. It\’s much nicer," he replied.
Other veterans, most of whom now are in their 90s, observed the anniversary in a more relaxed manner, watching the sun rise at the beach Friday.
The D-Day invasion was a turning point in the war and paved the way for the liberation of Western Europe from German forces.
More than 150,000 troops parachuted or waded on to French soil on June 6, 1944.
About 5,000 allied soldiers died in the beach invasion and tens of thousands more would be killed in the subsequent battle to free the continent.
Source – Agencies