LONDON - British Prime Minister David Cameron will hold rare face-to-face talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday in France at which he will urge Putin to help de-escalate the situation in Ukraine, Cameron's spokesman told reporters.
The meeting, which Cameron requested, will be held on the sidelines of the 70th anniversary of the World War Two D-Day landings in Normandy and is the first time the two have met since Prince Charles sparked a diplomatic spat by likening Putin to Adolf Hitler.
The Cameron-Putin talks were announced as tensions in eastern Ukraine worsened with Russia accusing the Ukrainian authorities of escalating violence against civilians there, even as it offered Kiev a brief respite in a dispute over billions of dollars' worth of unpaid gas bills.
"It's an important opportunity ... to set out the importance of a dialogue between the Russian government and the new Ukrainian government following the presidential elections,"Cameron's spokesman said, saying the vote offered a chance to de-escalate the situation.
Britain has repeatedly condemned Russia over Crimea and eastern Ukraine and officials said the meeting with Putin did not signify a return to "business as usual" with Moscow.
It was, they said, a chance to gauge Putin's reaction to the election of Ukrainian President Petr Poroshenko. Poroshenko will attend the D-Day commemorations and a lunch for world leaders. No formal meeting between him and Putin is scheduled.