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Russian, Ukrainian leaders talk amid D-Day pomp
Diplomacy » The meeting was followed by a brief exchange between Putin and Obama.

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In Putin’s private conversation with Merkel, German government spokesman Christiane Wirtz said the chancellor "took the opportunity to remind Russia again of its great responsibility" and said that following Poroshenko’s election, the priority needs to be a "stabilization of the situation, in particular in eastern Ukraine."

On Thursday, Obama and Western allies opened a pathway for Russia to ease tensions in Ukraine but pointedly warned Moscow it could face new sanctions within weeks if Putin fails to go along. The leaders said he could avoid tougher penalties in part by recognizing the legitimacy of the new Ukrainian government and ending support for the insurgency.

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There was no mention of rolling back Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Obama, who said he has a "businesslike" relationship with Putin, expressed hope that the Russian leader is "moving in a new direction" on Ukraine by not denouncing Poroshenko’s May 25 election. "But I think we have to see what he does and not what he says," Obama said.

The anniversary of the D-Day invasion in 1944 — a time when the U.S., Britain and Russia were allied against Nazi Germany — marked the best opportunity for the leaders to meet since the crisis in Ukraine began. Merkel’s key role appeared to endure through the ceremony in Ouistreham, in an extraordinarily symbolic sign of Germany’s changed role in Europe.

At least 15 pro-Russian rebels were killed Thursday in clashes with government troops at a Ukrainian border crossing with Russia, an aide to Ukraine’s interior minister said.

Speaking on a TV show, Anton Herashchenko said armed men came from Russia in trucks and an infantry vehicle and tried to cross the border at the village of Marynivka and were supported by 100 rebels from the Ukrainian side. His report of casualties could not be confirmed independently.

Following the clash, Ukraine’s government ordered the closing of parts of the border with Russia, including the Marynivka crossing, to try to prevent armed men from infiltrating. The Russian Foreign Ministry said it was "outraged" by the move.

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