President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke Friday on the sidelines of a lunch for world leaders attending D-Day commemoration ceremonies, marking their first face-to-face conversation since the crisis in Ukraine erupted.
The White House said the conversation was informal and lasted 10-15 minutes inside a chateau where the leaders ate lunch.
As leaders posed outside the building for a group photo before the lunch, Obama and Putin appeared to be avoiding each other deliberately. But once inside, they made time for their first such exchange since Putin annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. As the crisis as developed, Obama and Putin have spoken by phone, but haven't met in person.
Obama told reporters Thursday that if and Putin ended up speaking, he would tell the Russian leader that he has a new path to engage with Ukraine through President-elect Petro Poroshenko, who is scheduled to take office Saturday.
"If he does not, if he continues a strategy of undermining the sovereignty of Ukraine, then we have no choice but to respond" with more sanctions, Obama said.
Poroshenko and Putin met briefly for about 15 minutes on the sidelines of the commemoration events, Reuters reports, where they discussed the economic impacts of the crisis in Ukraine.
Obama, who said he has a "businesslike" relationship with Putin, expressed hope that the Russian leader is "moving in a new direction" on Ukraine since he didn't immediately denounce Poroshenko's election on May 25. "But I think we have to see what he does and not what he says," Obama said.
Friday's exchange came during a lunch hosted by French President Francois Hollande in Benouville. Obama and Putin were both in France, as were the other world figures, for the 70th anniversary of Allied troops storming the beaches at Normandy.
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