08/21/2014 02:24 EDT | Updated 08/21/2014 02:59 EDT

Richard Branson, Jeff Skoll Among Business Leaders Looking To Meet Putin

Some of the world's wealthiest people are seeking an audience with Russian president Vladimir Putin, hoping perhaps that business can succeed where politics has failed.

In a statement released Thursday, British billionaire and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson calls for an end to ongoing unrest in Ukraine, suggesting it has the potential to plunge the world into a new Cold War.

"As responsible leaders, we must ensure that differences are resolved peacefully, through dialogue and diplomacy, and with respect for both national sovereignty and the right of all human beings to live in peace," the letter, posted on Branson's blog, reads.

"We as business leaders from Russia, Ukraine and the rest of the world urge our governments to work together to ensure we do not regress into the Cold War misery of the past."

In all, 16 business leaders have signed the letter, including Canadian billionaire Jeff Skoll, Unilever CEO Paul Polman and Ukrainian tycoon Victor Pinchuk.

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Photo gallery Fighting in Ukraine See Gallery

In the last four months, nearly 2,100 people — including civilians and fighters — have been killed in Ukraine, according to the United Nations. Catastrophic damage to infrastructure has also created a humanitarian crisis that appears to be deepening.

In an interview with Bloomberg News, Branson indicated he would like to sit down with Putin, who has been accused of fanning the flames of unrest in embattled Ukraine.

“We will ask for a meeting with President Putin and sit down with him and express our views,” Branson told the news outlet, adding the delegation may also look to meet "Ukrainian leaders and European leaders and see whether we can use our negotiating skills as business leaders to help resolve the situation.”