Pro-Russian separatists have met for preliminary peace talks with Ukraine.
No major decision was expected from Monday’s session. The so-called contact group plan to meet again on Friday in the Belorussian capital Minsk.
“This is just the beginning of the process,” Andrei Purgin, one of the leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, told Russian state television.
“When consultations continue on September 5,” he said, “steps towards a potential ceasefire will be discussed and we will actively talk about a possible hostage exchange.”
Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko met with the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee US Senator Robert Menendez, and US Ambassador to Ukraine.
“If Russia wants to ultimately solve this problem they should stop talking about talking to the people’s leaders in Donetsk and Luhansk and should talk directly to the Ukrainian government,” said Menendez.
“They have influenced the situation from the very beginning, it is their troops that have invaded here, it is their weaponry that has killed Ukrainian soldiers, it is their efforts that have created the invasion that is taking place,” he added.
Poroshenko accused Russia of “direct and undisguised aggression” which he said had changed the battlefield balance in eastern Ukraine.
Moscow denies its troops have crossed the border.