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Putin, Poroshenko both set to attend D-Day anniversary Add to ...

Ukraine’s president-elect Petro Poroshenko will attend the 70th anniversary of the Second World War D-day landings in Normandy, his office said on Wednesday, creating an opportunity for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Relations between Russia and Ukraine, neighbors that share close historical ties, are in tatters after protesters pushed a Moscow-friendly Ukrainian president from power in February and Russia annexed Crimea.

Globe and Mail Update May. 26 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

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Russia has deployed tens of thousands of troops near the Ukrainian border and warned it could send them in to protect Russian-speakers in the east, while Poroshenko and Ukraine’s pro-Western government have ignored Moscow’s demands for an end to the operation against pro-Russian separatists.

Should the two men come face to face, it would be the first time Russia’s President meets a pro-Western Ukrainian politician since Moscow’s annexation of the Crimea in March.

“Mr. Poroshenko’s election paves the way for a peaceful and political exit to the crisis,” French President François Hollande’s office said in a statement announcing Poroshenko’s invitation.

Putin and Poroshenko are among several leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Polish President Bronisaw Komorowski – all key players in the Ukraine crisis – who are due to meet for lunch on June 6 to mark the D-day anniversary.

French officials could not confirm whether Putin and Poroshenko would meet, but said the two would attend the lunch.

Putin is due to hold talks with Hollande on the eve of the D-day events in Paris to discuss “fundamental international and bilateral issues, including the Ukraine crisis,” Kremlin foreign-policy aide Yuri Ushakov said.

The meeting would be the first with a Western leader since Crimea’s annexation.

The Kremlin said earlier Wednesday that Putin might have contact with other leaders while in France, but that any other meetings would be informal.

Hollande is also due to meet Obama and dine with other leaders on the same day, although Hollande’s office declined to say whether Putin would be part of that dinner.

Although Putin has frequently spoken to foreign heads of state and government by telephone since the start of the Ukraine crisis, his last known meeting with a Western leader was during the February Winter Olympics in Sochi.

His last foreign trip to meet Western leaders was a visit to Brussels for talks with European Union leaders in January.

The United States and European Union have imposed sanctions on Russian officials, lawmakers and companies close to Putin to punish him for annexing Crimea. Western leaders scrapped preparations for a G8 summit that Putin had planned to host in Sochi in June.

While France has said that Russia’s actions in Ukraine could endanger a €1.2-billion ($1.77-billion Cdn)) helicopter-carrier deal signed in 2011 to boost Russia’s military modernisation, it has more recently rejected U.S. pressure to cancel the deal, saying it would do more damage to Paris than to Moscow.

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Reuters May. 16 2014, 12:28 PM EDT

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