"--IANS/EFE"
Moscow, May 29 (IANS/EFE) Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet with French counterpart Francois Hollande in Paris June 5, a day before attending a ceremony to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings operation in World War II.

The two leaders will discuss major international and bilateral issues, including the crisis in Ukraine, Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov said Wednesday.

Putin and Hollande will hold talks at 9 p.m. at the Elysee Palace, he added.

The following day, Putin will attend an official reception at Deauville to mark the anniversary of the June 6, 1944, landings on the beaches of Normandy, a key operation that led to the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.

Putin may hold informal meetings with other Western leaders during his stay in Deauville, Ushakov said.

US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will also be in France for the D-Day anniversary.

The talks with Hollande will be Putin's first known meeting with a Western leader since Moscow formally re-incorporated the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea into Russia in March.

The West has denounced the Russian military movement in Crimea as contrary to international law and imposed limited sanctions.

Russians in Crimea had reacted with alarm in February when a government including Ukrainian nationalists took power in Kiev. Moscow deployed troops in the peninsula, claiming it was protecting ethnic Russians and Russia's interests.

On Wednesday, Russia said it has sought permission from Kiev to send humanitarian aid to eastern Ukraine, a region wracked by fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian army forces. It has also called on Kiev to halt military operations in that region.

Russia's foreign ministry said it sent a note to Kiev indicating that Russia continues to receive insistent requests from citizens and organisations in the conflict zone to provide urgent humanitarian aid.

Dozens of insurgents were killed earlier this week in the eastern pro-Russian region of Donetsk.

Long-simmering tensions between pro-European western Ukraine and the country's eastern region, which has close ties with Russia, were exacerbated by the ouster in late February of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, a Russian-speaker from the East.

The crisis that led to Yanukovych's ouster erupted at the end of November, when Yanukovych backed away from plans to ink a pact with the European Union and instead signed a $15 billion financial aid package with Russia.

Brussels' offer of closer ties with the European Union was conditioned on a pledge by Ukraine not to enter into any additional economic accords with Russia, Kiev's leading trade partner and energy supplier.

--IANS/EFE

ab/ks/


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