Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow welcomes Ukraine's decision to establish humanitarian corridors in eastern Ukraine where government forces continue fighting pro-Russian separatists.
Lavrov said on June 10 he hoped Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's decision was "not a military move" to give security forces a free hand.
Poroshenko said on June 10 the move was aimed at preventing "new victims" in areas where the government is conducting what it describes as a "counterterrorist operation."
Washington also welcomed the move, with State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki urging Kyiv to work with the United Nations and other aid groups to ensure the safety of civilians fleeing fighting in eastern Ukraine.
Lavrov said an end to the military operation against the rebels is "key" to a settlement. He said that if this was done, "the people you call separatists will reciprocate."
He was speaking at a joint press conference after talks in St. Petersburg with his German and Polish counterparts.
Lavrov also said that Ukraine was free to sign the Association Agreement with the European Union but warned that Moscow would be forced to protect its markets by introducing tariffs.
"The choice, of course, is to be made by the Ukrainian people," said Lavrov.
Germany's Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the escalation of the conflict over the past few months has "made way for a new atmosphere."
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (left) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at a press conference after a meeting in St. Petersburg on June 10 on the Ukrainian crisis.
Poland's Radoslaw Sikorski called on Russia to help defuse the crisis by preventing militants and weapons from crossing into eastern Ukraine.
He said Russia should not feel threatened by Poroshenko's plans for closer ties with the European Union, adding that Ukraine's membership in NATO -- which Moscow opposes -- is an issue that is "not on the agenda."
President Poroshenko's order says, "In order to avoid new victims in the area of the counterterrorist operation, the president instructed heads of law enforcement and military agencies to provide all the necessary conditions for civilians willing to move."
Authorities have said that counterterrost operations were continuing in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, with a spokesman for the security forces saying some "40 mercenaries" had been killed when the Ukrainian military responded to a sustained mortar attack in Krasnoyarsk.
Also on June 10, conflicting reports emerged via Russian and Ukrainian news agencies concerning the status of the separatist, self-proclaimed "people's mayor" of Slovyansk, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov. LifeNews and other outlets said he had been deposed and even detained by rival pro-Russians, although a spokesperson for the self-styled "Donetsk People's Republic" called those reports "a lie."
Based on reporting by Interfax, ITAR-TASS, and AFP