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Putin has brief conversation with Obama — Peskov

June 06, 2014, 17:24 UTC+3

It was the first meeting of the two leaders since the start of the crisis in Ukraine, which remains the key problem in the relations between Moscow and the West

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© ITAR-TASS/Aleksey Nikolsky

OUISTREHAM, June 06. /ITAR-TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin has had a brief conversation with US President Barack Obama during festive events dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings in France, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday.

“Despite the fact that there was no separate meeting, the two heads of state got an opportunity to exchange opinions on the situation in Ukraine and the crisis in Ukraine’s south-east. Putin and Obama agreed on the necessity to reduce violence and combat operations as soon as possible,” Peskov said.

It was the first meeting of the two leaders since the start of the crisis in Ukraine, which remains the key problem in the relations between Moscow and the West.

The positions of Russia on the one hand and Kiev and the West on the other are fundamentally different on events that have happened in Ukraine since the end of last year.

Ukraine crisis

Ukraine has been in turmoil after a coup occurred in the country in February 2014 that saw new people brought to power amid anti-government protests that often turned violent as President Viktor Yanukovych had to leave Ukraine for Russia for security reasons in late February.

The protests were triggered by Yanukovych’s decision to suspend the signing of an association deal with the European Union in November 2013 to study the agreement more thoroughly.

In March 2014, Ukraine lost a swathe of its territory, when the Crimean Peninsula and the city of Sevastopol within it having a special status refused to obey the coup-imposed Ukrainian leaders and seceded from Ukraine after a referendum to reunify with Russia following 60 years as part of Ukraine.

Despite Moscow’s repeated statements that the Crimean referendum on secession was in line with the international law and the UN Charter and in conformity with the precedent set by Kosovo’s secession from Serbia in 2008, the West and Kiev have refused to recognize the legality of Crimea’s reunification with Russia.

Some Russian and Crimean officials and companies have been subjected to sanctions by Western nations, including visa bans and asset freezes, after Crimea’s incorporation by Russia.

The West led by the United States has repeatedly threatened Russia with further penalties, including economic ones, for its position on Ukraine (incorporation of Crimea and what the West claimed was Moscow’s alleged involvement in protests in Ukraine’s Southeast).

Russia has rejected the threats of broader sanctions, saying the language of punitive measures is counterproductive and will have a boomerang effect on Western countries.

Residents of Ukraine’s southeastern territories, mainly the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, staged massive protests against the coup-imposed Ukrainian authorities. Their urge to defend their rights was apparently prompted by Crimea’s accession to Russia in mid-March. Demonstrators in the Southeast, who have been demanding Ukraine’s federalization, seized some government buildings.

A punitive operation, conducted by Kiev against federalization supporters in Ukraine's Southeast, has already claimed dozens of lives, including civilian. The Donetsk and Luhansk regions held referendums on May 11, in which most voters supported independence from Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly dismissed Western claims that Russia could in any way be involved in protests in Ukraine's Southeast.

Russia has been insistently urging Kiev to stop the punitive operation, which involves armored vehicles, heavy artillery and attack aviation, and engage in dialogue with the Southeast.

Billionaire businessman and politician Petro Poroshenko won the May 25 early presidential election in Ukraine set by the provisional Kiev authorities propelled to power during the February coup. He is to be sworn in on June 7.

Western-leaning Poroshenko, dubbed “the chocolate king” because his structures control Ukraine’s Roshen confectionery manufacturer, earlier told media he had funded anti-government protests that led to February's coup.

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