Kiev must withdraw troops from southeastern regions of Ukraine and rebels must stop offensive to stop bloodshed, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin says. He and Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko discussed "a ceasefire regime."
President Putin has outlined a seven-point plan to stabilize the situation in the crisis-torn east of Ukraine.
“On my way here from [the city of] Blagoveschensk to Ulan-Bator [Mongolia], I outlined some ideas and plan of actions. It’s here, but in handwriting,” Putin told reporters.
Putin expressed hope that final agreements between Kiev and militia in southeastern Ukraine could be reached and secured at the coming meeting of the so-called contact group on September 5.
“I hope the leaders of Ukraine will support the anticipated progress in bilateral relations,” Russia’s president said.
He called on Ukraine to take an active part in the work of the contact group “for a final and comprehensive settlement of the situation in the southeastern Ukraine, of course, with full and unconditional assurance of the legitimate rights of the people who live there.”
Commenting on the phone call with the Ukrainian president earlier on Wednesday, Putin stressed that their “views on ways to resolve the conflict are aligned.”
Later on Wednesday, the Ukrainian president expressed “great hope” that the peace process will start negotiations in Minsk on Friday.
“The first task is peace,” Poroshenko said. “Today at 5am, because of the time difference, we talked with President Putin about ways we could stop this horrible process. It is impossible to deny that people should being killed,” he added. The Ukrainian President stressed that all Ukrainians want peace and that is why he will strive for it.
Anti-Kiev militias say they are ready to lay down arms, but only if the same is done by all the government units fighting in the east of the country, said DPR Prime Minister Aleksandr Zakharchenko.
The political leader of the self-proclaimed republic noted that Kiev will have to obtain compliance from irregulars, such as Right Sector volunteer battalions, and mercenaries, who are also fighting on the side of the government.
“These have previously sabotaged existing deals,” said Zakharchenko.
The DPR leader said that the recent upturn in the rebels’ fortunes would improve the chances of striking a deal with Petro Poroshenko’s government.
Germany has supported the news that the two presidents are showing willingness to resolve the conflict, saying that Germany and the International community are ready to assist measures aimed at securing the ceasefire.
“Presidents Poroshenko and Putin are bearing responsibility not only for their nations, but all Europe,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in Hamburg. He stressed that now it is important to take decisive steps to establish a ceasefire in Ukraine.
“We are ready to assist this path via either repeating the meeting in Geneva or through other international formats,” he added.
In Ukraine, meanwhile, Putin’s peace plan was met with criticism from the country’s prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenuk, who said that Russia’s real plan is to destroy Ukraine and restore the USSR.
"We are waiting for decisions from NATO and the EU on how to stop the aggressor,” he said.
In Yatsenuk’s opinion, Putin’s 7-point plan is “an attempt of eyewash for the International community ahead of NATO summit and an attempt to avoid inevitable decisions from the EU on the new wave of sanctions against Russia.”
The “best” for Ukraine would be a one-point plan, Yatsenuk stressed, which is the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.
“And then there will be peace,” the PM said.
Russia has repeatedly denied accusations of direct military involvement in the conflict.
So far, attempts at temporary ceasefires between Kiev and self-defense forces in the past months have failed to bring about any improvement in the situation in southeastern Ukraine. Each time fighting has continued, with both sides blaming each other for breaking the truce.
2,593 people have died in fighting in eastern Ukraine since mid-April, the UN reported last week.
The military conflict that started this spring has displaced over a million Ukrainians, with the majority of them finding refuge in Russia.