This could be awkward: Obama and Putin may cross paths in France at D-Day event

Story highlights

  • Obama and Putin could come face to face in France at D-Day commemoration
  • French President Hollande dined with Obama before separate dinner with Putin
  • No formal talks have been announced; Putin says he won't avoid anyone
  • Obama said he would reiterate comments on Ukraine if leaders meet

The political pyrotechnics of a face-to-face encounter between U.S. President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin could eclipse a spectacular fireworks show set to illuminate the Normandy coastline to commemorate the D-Day anniversary.

French President Francois Hollande has gone to great lengths to prevent such an uncomfortable meeting.

On Thursday evening, Hollande dined with Obama before hosting a separate dinner with Putin. Talk about awkward dinner parties.

Obama and Putin are among the leaders invited to take part in French ceremonies Friday marking the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings, which helped change the course of World War II.

The two are likely to cross paths in France, Obama said, but no formal talks have been announced. If they should speak, Obama has said, he will give Putin the same message on Ukraine that he has given him in phone calls over past weeks and in his public statements.

On Thursday, after a meeting of G7 leaders in Brussels, Belgium, from which Russia was excluded, Obama offered stern words about Russia's actions in Ukraine.

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Putin "has a chance to get back into a lane of international law," Obama said.

Obama said Putin could start by recognizing Ukraine's new President-elect Petro Poroshenko, stopping the flow of weapons over the border into Ukraine and ceasing Russian support for pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine.

Putin, in an interview with French television station TF1, did not discount the possibility of meeting with Obama.

"As for my relations with Barack Obama, I have no reason whatsoever to believe he is not willing to talk to the President of Russia," he said. "But ultimately, it is his choice. I am always ready for dialogue, and I think that dialogue is the best way to bridge any gaps."

The D-Day events also could bring Putin and Ukraine's Poroshenko face to face.

Asked if he would speak with Ukraine's new leader, Putin said he will not "evade" Poroshenko or anyone else.

"There will be other guests, and I'm not going to avoid any of them. I will talk with all of them," he said, according to the Kremlin's translation.

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