(USA Today) BENOUVILLE, France — President Obama met briefly Friday with Vladimir Putin about the violence in Ukraine, and Putin also spoke with his new Ukrainian counterpart.
The informal meetings came as Obama and other members of the Group of Seven nations threaten new sanctions on Russia if Putin does not meet new conditions with respect to Ukraine.
Both talks came during a lunch break for the nearly two dozen world leaders who attended commemorations for the D-Day invasion of 70 years ago.
Obama and Putin had "an informal conversation, not a formal bilateral meeting," said White House spokesman Ben Rhodes.
The White House said Obama made clear to Putin the need to recognize Petro Poroshenko as the legitimate leader of Ukraine, and for Russia to cease its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine and stop providing arms and materiel across the border. Obama indicated that there was a possibility to reduce tensions if Russia takes these steps and works with the government in Kiev.
It was the first face-to-face meeting between Obama and Putin since the start of the Ukraine crisis, including the Russian annexation of the Crimea peninsula. Russian separatists are battling the Ukraine government in southern and eastern parts of the country.
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Putin and Obama "spoke for the need to end violence and fighting as quickly as possible."
Putin delivered a similar message to Poroshenko, who will be sworn in as Ukraine's new president on Saturday.
VIDEO: Putin, Ukraine leader break ice at D-Day event
Those two leaders "spoke for the soonest end to bloodshed in southeastern Ukraine and combat actions by both parties: the Ukrainian armed forces and supporters of the federalization of Ukraine," Peskov said in a statement carried by Russian news wires. They also agreed that the situation can be settled by peaceful means.
French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined in the Putin-Poroshenko meeting, which lasted about 15 minutes, according to French officials.
Obama told reporters Thursday that if he did speak with Putin at the D-Day event, he would urge him to work with the new Ukrainian president. "If he does not, if he continues a strategy of undermining the sovereignty of Ukraine, then we have no choice but to respond," Obama said.
The D-Day ceremonies took place the same week that members of the Group of Seven nations met to discuss new demands on Putin over the Russian incursion into Ukraine. They include an end to arms shipments across the Ukraine border and the cessation of support for violent separatists in southern and eastern Ukraine.
After the G-7 meeting ended Thursday, Obama said that "if Russia's provocations continue, it's clear from our discussions here that the G-7 nations are ready to impose additional costs on Russia."
Earlier at the D-Day ceremonies, journalists who watched the leaders assemble for a group photo reported that Obama and Putin seemed to go out of their way to avoid each other.
At one point, Obama was right behind the Russian leader but focused his attention elsewhere.