Ukraine crisis: Putin and Poroshenko vow to end bloodshed in symbolic D-Day meeting

The two leaders discussed a peaceful end to hostilities during memorials in France

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The Independent Online

Vladimir Putin has signalled co-operation between Russia and Ukraine’s new government to “end the bloodshed” in the country after a symbolic meeting during D-Day memorials.

The Russian President met Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian president-elect, in France during commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings.

They had attended memorials for the thousands killed in Europe’s bloodiest war on the poignant day.

A spokesman from the Kremlin said the two leaders called for the “soonest end to bloodshed in southeastern Ukraine and combat by both parties, the Ukrainian armed forces and supporters of the federalisation of Ukraine,” in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.

Mr Putin and Mr Poroshenko discussed how Russia could recognize the Ukrainian elections, and a possible cease-fire, said an official at French President Francois Hollande's office.

The French official said their 15-minute discussion “included ways to de-escalate, including the manner in which Moscow could recognise Poroshenko's election, realising that Putin is sending an ambassador to Kiev tomorrow”.

Dmitry Peskov, the Russian President’s spokesman, said the two men ”confirmed that there is no alternative to settling the situation by peaceful political means”.

Heavy casualties have been sustained by both Ukrainian troops and pro-Russia rebels in fierce fighting around Slovyansk and Donetsk, with civilians caught in the crossfire.

In recent weeks, Ukrainian officials say more than 200 people have died but the figure cannot be independently confirmed.

Soviet-era divides between Ukrainians wanting closer ties to Europe and those calling for regional autonomy and close affiliation with Russia have exploded into violence after the outing of President Viktor Yanukovych.

Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula drew international condemnation and froze diplomatic relations with the West near Cold War levels but a thaw seemed to be signalled on Friday.

Outside the building where world leaders met for lunch, reporters saw German Chancellor Angela Merkel joining conversation with Mr Putin and Mr Poroshenko and she was reportedly seen “shuttling back and forth” between the two leaders during a memorial at Sword Beach.

She is said to have talked frequently with Mr Putin since the Ukraine crisis started and had a visit from Mr Poroshenko in Berlin on Thursday.

Vladimir Putin stands at right as President Barack Obama, left, and New Zealand's Governor-General Jerry Mateparae guide Queen Elizabeth II to her position for a group photo for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings

Known as the “Chocolate King”, the billionaire is to be sworn in as Ukraine's next President on Saturday and has promised a comprehensive plan to put an end to hostilities as soon as he assumes office.

Mr Putin held his first face-to-face meetings with Western leaders in France this week since the start of the Ukrainian crisis and has even met informally with Barack Obama.

Moscow was warned it could face new sanctions within weeks if it fails to co-operate with plans to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine by recognising the legitimacy of the new Ukrainian government and ending any support for the insurgency in eastern cities that is widely believed to be backed by the Kremlin.

Additional reporting by AP