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Hollande to meet Putin in surprise Moscow visit: reports

French President Francois Hollande is due to make a surprise visit to Moscow on his way back from a visit to Kazakhstan. Hollande is expected to meet his Russian counterpart and discuss the Ukraine crisis.

Reports emerged on Saturday that Hollande would likely meet Russian President Vladimir Putin at a Moscow airport in a stopover on the way back to France from Kazakhstan following a two-day trip, according to news agencies quoting the Kremlin and Russian media.

Hollande's unscheduled flying visit comes a day after he vowed to work towards de-escalation in Ukraine, according to comments made at a Friday press conference in Kazakhstan reported by news agency AFP.

At that conference, Hollande reportedly suggested that he, Putin, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko should make greater efforts to start the process of reducing tension together.

Rare meeting

While observers have noted the frequent contact between Putin and German Chancellor Merkel during the Ukraine conflict, such dialogue between Hollande and Putin has been a rarity.

The relationship between the two has been further tested in recent weeks, with Hollande having suspended the delivery of a French-built warship to Russia due to the Ukraine conflict. Late last month technical equipment was reported stolen from the warship, which is under construction at the port of Saint-Nazaire.

Both the European Union and the United States have imposed sanctions on Russia for what they see as its role in destabilizing Ukraine after the February ouster of the country's pro-Moscow president. More than 4,300 people have been killed in fighting in Ukraine's east and relations between Russia and the west have sunk to post-Cold War depths.

se/mg (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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