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Putin in new Ukraine talks

RUSSIAN president Vladimir Putin and Ukraine's newly elected leader Petro Poroshenko have spoken of their desire for a quick end to hostilities in south-eastern Ukraine during their meeting at the D-Day commemorations in France, a Russian spokesman said.

Mr Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "During the brief conversation, both Putin and Poroshenko spoke for the soonest end to bloodshed in south-eastern Ukraine and combat actions by both parties: the Ukrainian armed forces and supporters of the federalisation of Ukraine."

Mr Peskov said Mr Putin and Mr Poroshenko also "confirmed there is no alternative to settling the situation by peaceful political means".

French president Francois Hollande and German chancellor Angela Merkel also joined in what French officials said was a 15-minute encounter.

Mr Peskov also said Mr Putin talked separately to US president Barack Obama and they "exchanged opinions about the situation in Ukraine and the crisis in the country's east". The White House confirmed the encounter.

"Putin and Obama spoke for the need to end violence and ­fighting as quickly as possible," Mr Peskov said.

In recent weeks, Ukrainian officials say more than 200 people have died in fighting between Ukrainian government troops and pro-Russian rebels.

Confectionery magnate Mr Poroshenko, who is to be sworn in as Ukraine's next president today, has promised a comprehensive plan to put an end to the hostilities in the east as soon as he assumes office.

Mr Putin held his first meetings with western leaders in France this week since pro-European protesters pushed out Ukraine's Russia-friendly president in February, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula, and the US and EU imposed sanctions in response.

Some western leaders appear ready to allow Mr Putin back into the international fold after months of isolation. He met Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday.

Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov said "the conversation [with his Ukrainian opposite number] mostly focused on the search for solutions and compromises," rather than dwelling on the differences.

German government spokesman Christiane Wirtz said Mrs Merkel "took the opportunity to remind Russia again of its great responsibility" and said that following the presidential election in Ukraine, the priority needs to be a "stabilisation of the situation, in particular in eastern Ukraine".

President Obama and western allies opened a pathway for Russia to ease tensions in Ukraine on Thursday, but pointedly warned Moscow it could face new sanctions within weeks if Mr Putin fails to co-operate.

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