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Russia risks further isolation

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President Barack Obama has personally told Vladimir Putin he must de-escalate tensions in Ukraine or face deeper international isolation, a US official says.

The warning came as the Russian and US presidents had a 15-minute informal encounter at a lunch on Friday for leaders attending D-Day 70th anniversary commemorations in Normandy, France.

“President Obama underscored that the successful Ukrainian election provides an opportunity that should be taken,” Ben Rhodes, a deputy US national security advisor, said.

“President Obama made clear that de-escalation depends upon Russia recognising President-elect Poroshenko as the legitimate leader of Ukraine, ceasing support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, and stopping the provision of arms and materiel across the border.”

Rhodes said Obama noted president-elect Poroshenko’s commitment to pursue reforms to ensure that the rights and interests of all Ukrainians are respected, and urged Russia to work immediately with the government in Kiev to reduce tensions.”

“President Obama made clear that a failure to take these steps would only deepen Russia’s isolation.”

The readout offered no details of the atmospherics or the tone of the talks, the first direct encounter between the two leaders since the Ukrainian crisis erupted.

But there was a hint of a carrot for Putin of better relations with Washington if he meets US demands.

“If Russia does take this opportunity to recognise and work with the new government in Kiev, President Obama indicated that there could be openings to reduce tensions,” Rhodes said.