Putin and Poroshenko agree to work towards Ukraine ceasefire

Russian president and Ukraine's president-elect hold talks on sidelines of D-day commemoration in France.

The German chancellor Angela Merkel talks to Russian president Vladimir Putin, right, as Ukraine’s president-elect Petro Poroshenko looks on after a group photo for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings at Benouville Castle, France, on June 6, 2014. Regis Duvignau / Reuters

BENOUVILLE, France // The Russia president Vladimir Putin and and Ukraine’s president-elect Petro Poroshenko on Friday jointly called for a ceasefire in south-east Ukraine, a potential breakthrough in a crisis that has poisoned Moscow’s relations with the West.

Mr Putin and Mr Poroshenko spoke for a quarter of an hour in a meeting brokered by the French president Francois Hollande before a lunch of world leaders attending D-Day anniversary ceremonies in France, aides to Mr Hollande said.

French officials said a potential ceasefire between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists had been discussed, but Mr Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov went further.

“Putin and Poroshenko called for the soonest possible end to bloodshed in south-eastern Ukraine, and to military operations on both sides – both by the Ukrainian armed forces and by supporters of the federalisation of Ukraine,” Mr Peskov said.

“They also confirmed that there was no alternative to resolving the situation with peaceful political methods,” he said.

It was the first meeting between the two leaders since Mr Poroshenko, a pro-western chocolate tycoon, won Ukraine’s presidential election on May 25.

Mr Putin also spoke briefly with the US president Barack Obama, who warned him that he must de-escalate tensions in Ukraine or face deeper international isolation, US officials said.

“President Obama made clear that de-escalation depends upon Russia recognising President-elect Poroshenko as the legitimate leader of Ukraine, ceasing support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, and stopping the provision of arms and materiel across the border,” said Ben Rhodes, a deputy US national security adviser.

The gathering of international leaders in France for the D-Day commemoration offered Mr Putin his first face-to-face contact with US and European leaders since Russia annexed the Crimea region of Ukraine in in April, triggering western sanctions.

The Russian president also held talks on Friday with the German chancellor Angela Merkel, in in which she called on Russia to “live up to its responsibility” to ease the crisis in Ukraine.

A spokesman for Ms Merkel said she told Mr Putin that “the time must now be used, after the internationally recognised presidential election, to stabilise the situation, especially in eastern Ukraine”.

* Agence France-Presse