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 Petro Poroshenko. Poroshenko will attend the D-Day commemorations and a lunch for world leaders. No formal meeting between him and Putin is scheduled.
(This story was refiled to spell Poroshenko's first name as Petro in sixth paragraph)
(Reporting by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge)