Russia and Ukraine are set to hold their first direct talks on ending the violence in eastern Ukraine, after the two countries’ leaders met during D-Day commemorations in France.
Petro Poroshenko, who’ll be sworn in as Ukraine’s president today after winning a May 25 election, said he’ll hold talks tomorrow on ending the violence in eastern Ukraine with an envoy from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Poroshenko said the talks will address a peace plan for eastern Ukraine, according to an e-mailed statement from his office.
The two men had a brief meeting yesterday in Normandy, where Putin also spoke face-to-face with U.S. President Barack Obama for the first time since the Ukraine crisis escalated in February. The Russian leader welcomed Poroshenko’s commitment to ending the bloodshed in Ukraine, and said the government in Kiev must call off its military campaign against pro-Russian separatists.
The 70th anniversary of the Allied landings in northern France has served as a forum for Obama and European leaders to seek ways to defuse the tensions over Ukraine, which have led to the biggest dispute with Russia since the Cold War.
Russia annexed Crimea in March, a month after a pro-Russian government in Ukraine was toppled by protesters. The U.S. and its European allies say Putin is behind subsequent unrest in eastern Ukraine. Russia accuses them of backing an illegitimate administration in Kiev that’s using armed force against its own people.
“The Ukrainian leadership must show its goodwill and wisdom,” Putin said at a news conference in Normandy. “They have to immediately stop the operation and announce a cease-fire. There is no other way to create the conditions for negotiations.”
Poroshenko, a billionaire with investments from chocolates to banking, will become Ukraine’s fifth president since the collapse of the Soviet Union. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and European Union President Herman Van Rompuy will be among leaders attending today’s ceremony at parliament in Kiev.
Poroshenko has promised to crush the pro-Russian rebels, and also to unite the nation of more than 40 million. He said on June 4 that he would use his inauguration to present a peace plan, including proposals for a “wide amnesty” and decentralization of power.
The U.S. wants Putin to formally recognize the legitimacy of Poroshenko’s election, and to stop sending arms and other aid to the separatists in east Ukraine, according to a U.S. official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity to discuss the Putin-Obama conversation.
Their meeting, which lasted about 15 minutes, took place as the two presidents and several EU leaders prepared for lunch at Chateau de Benouville in Normandy, where they marked the D-Day anniversary.
The diplomatic flurry pushed Russian financial markets higher. The benchmark stock index jumped 1 percent yesterday, extending its gain since a mid-March low to 20 percent. The ruble added 0.8 percent against the dollar. The Ukrainian hryvnia, this year’s worst performer against the U.S. currency with a 30 percent plunge, advanced 0.8 percent.
Leaders from the Group of Seven nations earlier this week agreed to hold off on further sanctions on Russia, to give Putin another chance to cut off support for the separatists battling Ukrainian government forces. Russia was excluded from the forum, which it had been scheduled to host this year, after it annexed Crimea.
To contact the reporters on this story: Gregory Viscusi in Normandy at firstname.lastname@example.org; Julianna Goldman in Normandy at email@example.com
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alan Crawford at firstname.lastname@example.org; Steven Komarow at email@example.com Ben Holland, Joe Sobczyk