Vladimir Putin says a peace deal between Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels could be reached on Friday at talks in Minsk.
Visiting Mongolia, the Russian president described his views as “very close” to those of his Ukrainian counterpart after both leaders said they had agreed a ceasefire process.
Putin has been accused by Ukraine and the West of talking about peace while Russian troops do the opposite.
Outlining a seven-step plan in his words “to end the bloodshed”, the Russian leader said armed self-defence units around Donetsk and Luhansk first had to stop offensive operations. Secondly, Ukraine’s army had to pull back so that it was impossible to shell civilian areas.
Other steps include international observers to monitor a ceasefire, a prisoner exchange, a humanitarian corridor for refugees and aid, and for repairs to damaged facilities and infrastructure.
On the Ukrainian side, there have been different reactions.
President Poroshenko said he hoped the peace process would finally begin in Minsk on Friday.
“The people of Ukraine are fully in favour (of peace), while politicians want to play at war. I want to say that I will not allow this,” he added.
But his prime minister argued no plan from Putin should be trusted. Arseniy Yatsenyuk said he believed the Russian leader’s proposals were an attempt to deceive the West before the NATO summit and avoid new sanctions.
The mistrust is mutual.
Andrei Purgin, vice premier of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, representing the rebel movement at the Belarus talks, said rebels would not join a ceasefire until government troops left the Donbas region.