Petro Poroshenko is to be sworn in as Ukraine’s president on June 7 after winning the May 25 election on promises to bridge the country's east-west divide.
Hours ahead of the inauguration ceremony in Kyiv, Ukrainian government forces were continuing to battle pro-Russian separatists in the east near Slovyansk and Donetsk.
The inauguration comes a day after Porosehnko met briefly and unofficially in France with Russian President Vladimir Putin during commemoration of the D-Day invasion's 70th anniversary.
Putin welcomed Poroshenko’s plans to stop bloodshed in eastern Ukraine, saying that he “overall has the right approach” to the crisis.
But Putin also called on Poroshenko to stop what he described as “punitive” military operations against pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Putin also said that he expects Poroshenko to show “good will” and “state wisdom.”
Putin said he did not speak to Poroshenko about Ukraine’s debts for Russian natural gas deliveries.
But Putin told reporters that Russia’s state-controlled Gazprom and its Ukrainian partners “are close to final agreements” over that dispute – and that Russia “might accommodate the Ukrainians and support them, of course, if they pay the debts they have accumulated.”
Poroshenko told reporters after speaking with Putin that he sees "good chances" of successful dialogue with Russia.
Poroshenko received support from U.S. President Barack Obama and European leaders during meetings in Poland and France this week.
Putin and Obama also met briefly and unofficially at the D-Day ceremonies.
Ben Rhodes, a deputy U.S. national security advisor, said Obama indicated that if Russia engages with Poroshenko’s government in Kyiv, “there could be openings to reduce tensions.”
But Obama also told Putin personally that he must use the Kremlin’s influence over pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine to deescalate tensions there or face further isolation.
For his part, Putin described his brief talk with Obama as “substantial.”
Putin also held separate talks about the Ukraine crisis on June 6 with French, British, and German leaders – describing those meetings as “very positive.”
But as those talks were going on, Ukrainian security forces engaged in battle against separatist near the town of Slovyansk in eastern Ukraine.
Pro-Russian separatists reportedly were launching mortar attacks against government checkpoints on June 6.
The separatists also claimed they shot down a Ukrainian surveillance plane near Slovyansk and seized part of a hospital in the eastern city of Donetsk.
Ukraine’s border guard service said it had closed eight border crossings in Donetsk and the neighboring region of Luhansk on June 6 as the fighting continued.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said it was “outraged” by the closure of the border crossings.
It says the crossings are being used by civilians trying to flee from eastern Ukraine into Russia.
Kyiv says that is not true, but charges that Russian fighters and weapons are flooding into eastern Ukraine through those border crossings.
Moscow denies that allegation.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, ITAR-TASS, and Interfax