French President Francois Hollande speaks during a media conference at the G7 summit in Brussels on Thursday, June 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
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Criticised at home for a lack of initiative on Ukraine, French President Francois Hollande will hold separate dinners on Thursday with the U.S. and Russian leaders in an attempt to unlock Europe's worst security crisis since the Cold War.His aim is to orchestrate an ice-breaking first meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian president-elect Petro Poroshenko on French soil, diplomats said, despite continued fighting in eastern Ukraine between government forces and pro-Russian separatists. French officials have gone to elaborate lengths to keep U.S. President Barack Obama and Putin apart in Paris, at Washington's request, before Friday's 70th anniversary commemorations of the allied D-Day landings in World War Two, which will see 18 world leaders descend on the Normandy beaches. Putin said in French media interviews on Wednesday that he was open to meetings with both Poroshenko and Obama in France.French diplomats say Hollande, who met Poroshenko in Poland on Wednesday, wants at the very least to get Putin and the Ukrainian to shake hands at a closed-door lunch of leaders on Friday at the 18th-century Chateau de Benouville, where rooms are ready for bilateral meetings.
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