U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin met briefly Friday in Normandy, France. A White House official confirmed the two met for about 15 minutes after a luncheon of world leaders.
Mr. Obama reportedly told Mr. Putin that he believed the Russian leader had the power to lessen the fighting in eastern Ukraine between government forces and pro-Russian separatists.
The official also said if Russia works with the Ukrainian government of president-elect Petro Poroshenko there could be possibilities to reduce tensions. Mr. Poroshenko is to take office Saturday.
Earlier Friday, Mr. Putin and Mr. Poroshenko met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The three leaders spoke as they walked into a building in Normandy, where world leaders ate lunch.
Russian news agencies reported a spokesman for Mr. Putin said the two leaders called for a quick end to the fighting in southeastern Ukraine and to the military actions of both sides.
Western officials had been hopeful that informal contacts between Mr. Putin and Mr. Poroshenko could help reduce tensions over Ukraine. Earlier this year, Russia seized the Crimea area and made it a part of Russia. The action came after the ouster of a pro-Russian president in Kyiv in February.
Many of the world leaders gathered in Normandy are urging Russia to end its support for the pro-Russian separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine.
On Thursday, Mr. Obama urged Russia to negotiate directly with the newly-elected Ukrainian government. And he called on Mr. Putin to stop armed Russian militias from crossing the border into Ukraine.
At a G7 meeting in Brussels Thursday, Western leaders warned that more economic penalties could be placed on Russia within weeks if it does not reduce its support for the rebels. The United States and Britain have led western nations in supporting economic penalties on Russian businesses and close aides to Mr. Putin. But they have so far not supported stronger penalties on important parts of the Russian economy.
France and Germany have strong energy and trade relations with Russia. They have not been as strong in their public criticisms.
The meeting in Brussels was to have been a G8 meeting and was to have been held in the Russian Black Sea town of Sochi. But after Mr. Putin made Crimea a part of Russia, Western powers moved the meeting to Brussels, and it became a G7 meeting.
I’m Christopher Cruise