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Hollande to discuss Ukraine crisis with Putin in Moscow

French President Francois Hollande will make an unscheduled stop in Moscow later on Saturday to discuss the Ukraine crisis with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, his office said.

Hollande will stop in the Russian capital on his way back home from a visit to Kazakhstan, a day after vowing to work towards a “de-escalation” in the Ukraine crisis, it said in a statement.

He will likely meet Putin at an airport in Moscow, it added.

Warning that the eight-month Ukraine crisis — which has sparked the worst East-West standoff since the end of the Cold War — posed “serious threats to the economy of the entire region”, Hollande on Friday promised “to work together to find all the points that will allow… to initiate a de-escalation”.

The European Union and the United States have imposed sanctions on Russia over the crisis that has seen Moscow annex Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and some 4,300 people die as a result of fighting between Kiev government troops and pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Because of the tensions, France has been forced to delay delivery of two Mistral-class helicopter carriers that it was building for Russia in a 1.2 billion euro ($1.5 billion) contract.

Paris faces hefty fines if it breaches the contract with Russia, but risks the wrath of its allies around the world if it delivers the hot-button technology to Moscow with the Ukraine crisis still raging.

With a flatlining economy France could find itself saddled with two massive warships equipped with Russian technology that it cannot sell to another client and no money to show for it.

The first of the two assault ships was supposed to be delivered in November, according to the terms of the deal Russia and France signed in 2011.