Putin, Poroshenko Meeting Positive

Putin, Poroshenko Meeting Positive Putin, Poroshenko Meeting Positive

Russian President Vladimir Putin met his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko in Milan Friday for talks amid encouraging signs the two leaders are trying to ease tensions over eastern Ukraine.

The Russian leader met his Ukrainian counterpart and key Western leaders on the sidelines of an Asia-Europe summit in the northern Italian city of Milan in a bid to end the hostilities in eastern Ukraine that could ease the sanctions against Russia, France 24 reported.

Speaking to reporters after Friday’s breakfast meeting, a smiling Putin said, “It was good, it was positive.”

Summit host Italian President Matteo Renzi also described the much-awaited meeting as “positive,” adding that he hoped “this spirit [of dialogue]...will continue."

Renzi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President François Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron were also present.

 ‘Difficulties’ Remain

But in a sign of the challenges confronting world leaders and diplomats trying to find a solution to a crisis that has claimed more than 3,600 lives, the Kremlin released a statement just hours after the Milan meeting describing it as “difficult” and “full of misunderstandings and disagreements”.

Putin’s meeting with Poroshenko came hours after the Russian leader met Merkel.

The Kremlin, in a readout of the overnight Putin-Merkel meeting, said the leaders emphasized the need to separate the warring sides in eastern Ukraine and talked about monitoring the cease-fire.

Russian media quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying there were still “serious differences” between the two leaders over the origins of the crisis.

 Cautious Optimism

But following the Friday meeting, European leaders expressed cautious optimism. Cameron noted that Putin had told EU leaders present at the talks that he does not want to see a divided Ukraine or a frozen crisis along Russia’s western border.

Putin was scheduled to hold more talks with Poroshenko, Merkel and Hollande later Friday, according to Russian officials.

Speaking ahead of the summit, Putin bluntly accused US President Barack Obama of outright hostility towards Russia.

Warning that he would not be blackmailed by the West over Ukraine, Putin chillingly warned too of “what discord between large nuclear powers can do to strategic stability”.

The Kremlin had attempted to sweeten the mood ahead of Friday’s talks by announcing over the weekend that Putin had ordered the pullback of 17,600 Russian troops from close to the border with Ukraine.

 Record Approval rating

Meanwhile, President Putin’s average approval marks from the Russian public have approached the record level of early 2008, independent research has shown.

The poll conducted in late September by the Levada sociology center shows that the average mark given by Russians to their leader is now 7.33 out of 10. This figure has been higher only once before – a mark of 7.49 reached in January 2008 at the very end of Putin’s first two terms as president.

17 percent of all respondents think Putin deserved the top mark – 10 out of 10 – for his work, RT reported.

In the same poll, 38 percent of Russians said the head of state was worthy of their trust because his current performance was strong and successful.

The poll results are consistent with a recent tendency for record-breaking ratings for President Putin and other top Russian officials. Researchers explain this by ‘mobilization’ and solidarity of society in the face of foreign hostility, and also by events like the accession of the Crimean Republic into the Russian Federation.

In mid-August, 52 percent of Russians told Levada Center that they were ready to vote for Putin if presidential elections were held on the nearest weekend. January 2014, the share of such people was about 29 percent and that means that Vladimir Putin’s presidential rating has doubled in almost seven months.

Another influential sociological think-tank, the Public Opinion Foundation, conducted similar research in early August. It found that 68 percent of all potential voters were ready to support Putin at presidential elections, compared to 58 percent in March and 46 percent in January.