Obama, Putin have awkward face-to-face meeting
President Obama and Russian President Vladimiir Putin had a brief, 15 minute meeting at a luncheon of world leaders following the ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
The unannounced talk was "awkward" according to sources present. The report of what was said makes it appear that President Obama did most of the talking.
The conversation largely centered on the recent election of Ukrainian President-elect Petro Poroshenko, and the need for Russia to stop supporting activists who continue to foment violence and unrest in eastern parts of the country, according to the White House.
Mr. Obama also warned Mr. Putin of more economic sanctions and further isolation from the international community, should Russia not heed U.S. warnings.
“President Obama made clear that de-escalation depends upon Russia recognizing 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, the White House’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications.
The meeting lasted about 15 minutes, according to Mr. Rhodes.
“President Obama noted President-elect Poroshenko’s commitment to pursue reforms to ensure that the rights and interests of all Ukrainians are respected, and urged Russia to work immediately with the government in Kiev to reduce tensions,” he continued. “President Obama made clear that a failure to take these steps would only deepen Russia’s isolation. If Russia does take this opportunity to recognize and work with the new government in Kiev, President Obama indicated that there could be openings to reduce tensions.”
Mr. Obama is traveling in Europe and earlier this week he met in Warsaw with Mr. Poroshenko.
The unscheduled meeting between the two may indicate that some kind of deal may be in the offing on the Ukraine. The White House is saying they want to give Putin an "out" in order for him to climb down from his position on the violence in Eastern Ukraine. But if a framework for talks between Putin and Poroshenko is being worked out, that may ease the tensions in the region that has seen the violence escalate over the last week.