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Focus on Ukraine crisis as Obama starts European tour

US President Barack Obama has begun a European tour likely to be dominated by the Ukraine crisis. Not only is he set to meet Ukraine's president-elect face-to-face, but also Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Obama landed in Warsaw, Poland on Tuesday for a trip aimed at reassuring the US's eastern European NATO allies following Russia's annexation of the Crimea and armed conflict in eastern regions of Ukraine.

. First on the agenda was a meeting with US and Polish pilots mounting joint patrols of the Baltic states, in light of the Ukraine tensions.

Later in the day, Obama is to co-chair a meeting - alongside Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski - of former Warsaw Pact nations that joined NATO after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

During his stay in the Polish capital, Warsaw, Obama is also set to meet with Ukraine's president-elect Petro Poroshenko. Poroshenko won 54.7 percent of the vote in national elections on May 25, although polling in eastern parts of the country was disrupted amid violence.

Same topic in Brussels

On Thursday, Obama is due to fly on to Brussels to attend the Group of Seven (G7) summit of leading economies. Russia has been excluded from proceedings after the G8 grouping of nations of which it had been a part was suspended by other members because of Moscow's perceived interference in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had been on the guest list, but was excluded from proceedings since the flare-up of the Ukraine crisis. Washington is expected to push for the EU to maintain and even strengthen sanctions against Russia, something that has divided opinion between member states.

Obama is also scheduled to visit France, where talks are planned with French President Francois Hollande.

In Normandy, the US president is due for a potentially frosty encounter with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he will meet along with other heads of state present for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Although no official one-to-one encounter between the two men is planned, an informal meeting has not been ruled out.

rc/jr (AFP, AP)

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