British World War 2 veteran Jock Hutton (89) stands
following his landing after he and teams of French, US,
Canadian and British paratroopers jumped from aeroplanes
during a D-Day commemoration in Ranville, northern France.
The leaders of Russia and Ukraine have held their first
talks since Moscow annexed Crimea, airing ways to end their
four-month conflict in a brief encounter during commemorations
in France of the World War Two D-Day landings.
French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor
Angela Merkel brought together Russia's Vladimir Putin and
Ukrainian president-elect Petro Poroshenko for a 15-minute
meeting before they joined other dignitaries for lunch.
Putin went on to have an equally short meeting with Barack
Obama in which, according to a White House official, the US
President urged him to recognise Poroshenko as Ukraine's
leader and to cut off arms supplies to pro-Russian
French officials have been plotting for weeks to use the 70th
anniversary of the D-Day landings - a key event helping to
end World War Two - to try to break the ice in the most
serious European security crisis since the end of the Cold
Hollande's office said Putin and Poroshenko shook hands and
agreed that detailed talks on a ceasefire between Kiev
government forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern
Ukraine would begin within a few days.
Poroshenko, brought to power by pro-Western protests which
Putin has termed a coup, was photographed looking unsmiling
and earnest as he stood with the Russian leader and Merkel.
"It was a normal, serious exchange between two leaders," an
official in Hollande's office said.
"This marks tentative progress which he (Hollande) welcomes,
particularly given this occasion so symbolic for peace," the
official said, adding they also discussed steps such as
Russian recognition of Poroshenko's election and economic
Putin told travelling reporters he welcomed proposals set out
by Poroshenko for ending the conflict. However he declined to
say what they were and said Ukraine must halt what he called
"punitive" military operations against pro-Russian
But he added: "I felt the attitude was right as a whole ...
If this (plan) happens, then it creates conditions for the
development of relations in other areas, including the
Interfax in Ukraine cited Poroshenko as saying he expected a
Russian representative" to come to Ukraine to discuss his
ideas for a settlement plan. He added that he saw "good
chances" of it being implemented.
Hollande had invited Poroshenko to Normandy as his personal
guest at the last minute in an effort to break the ice
between Moscow and Kiev even as fighting continued in eastern
Ukraine between government forces and pro-Russian
The rebels shot down a Ukrainian army plane on Friday and
killed a member of the interior ministry's special forces in
the separatist stronghold of Slaviansk, where residents said
shelling continued all day.
A White House official said Putin and Obama, who had avoided
contact with the Russian leader while the two were in Paris
on Thursday - also spoke to each other before the lunch.
"President Obama made clear that de-escalation depends upon
Russia recognizing President-elect Poroshenko as the
legitimate leader of Ukraine, ceasing support for separatists
in eastern Ukraine, and stopping the provision of arms and
material across the border," deputy national security adviser
Ben Rhodes said.
"If Russia does take this opportunity to recognize and work
with the new government in Kiev, President Obama indicated
that there could be openings to reduce tensions," he added.
World leaders and veterans paid tribute to soldiers who fell
in the liberation of Europe from Nazi German rule, at a
series of ceremonies around the Normandy beaches where allied
forces landed 70 years ago on June 6, 1944.
Wreaths, parades and parachute-drops honoured history's
largest amphibious assault, in which 160,000 US, British and
Canadian troops waded ashore to confront German forces,
hastening its defeat and the advent of peace in Europe.
Flanked by stooped war veterans, some in wheelchairs, Obama
earlier joined Hollande to commemorate victory and reaffirm
U.S-French solidarity before the 9,387 white marble
headstones of fallen US soldiers at the Normandy American
It will be the last major commemoration for most of the
veterans, most of whom are in their late 80s and 90s.
Obama said the 50-mile (80 km) stretch of Normandy coastline
- where allied soldiers landed under fire on beaches
codenamed Omaha, Utah, Gold, Sword and Juno - was a "tiny
sliver of sand upon which hung more than the fate of a war,
but rather the course of human history."
"Omaha - Normandy - this was democracy's beachhead," said
Obama. "And our victory in that war decided not just a
century, but shaped the security and well-being of all
The president sought to link the sacrifices of World War Two
to US servicemen killed in combat since the Sept. 11, 2001
attacks on the United States by al Qaeda Islamist militants.
The "9/11 generation of service members" understood that
"people cannot live in freedom unless free people are
prepared to die for it", he said.
Hollande declared that France "would never forget the
solidarity between our two nations, solidarity based on a
shared ideal, an aspiration, a passion for freedom".
Twenty-one foreign leaders attended the commemorations,
including Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister David
Cameron, Canada's Stephen Harper as well as Merkel and Putin,
whose country suffered the heaviest casualties and struck
decisive blows on the eastern front to defeat the Nazis.