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Poroshenko To Seek Cease-Fire After 'Tough' Talks With Putin

  • RFE/RL

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says he will work on an urgent cease-fire plan aimed at defusing the separatist conflict in the country's east following talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Poroshenko described his two hours of face-to-face talks with Putin on August 26 as "very tough and complex" but said all sides “without exception” had backed Kyiv's peace proposals.

He told reporters that a "road map will be prepared in order to achieve as soon as possible a cease-fire regime which absolutely must be bilateral in character."

For his part, Putin said the talks in Minsk had been positive but that any cease-fire plans were an internal matter for Kyiv and the rebels, saying "it's not our business, it's up to Ukraine itself." But he said Russia "will do everything to support this peace process if it starts."

The West accuses Russia of supplying the separatists with weapons. Moscow denies that.

According to the United Nations, more than 2,000 people have died since April in fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Putin said he and Poroshenko had also agreed to hold talks on Russian gas supplies to Ukraine.

"We need to resume our energy dialogue, including about gas problems," Putin said. "Sincerely speaking, this is a difficult issue. It has reached a dead end, but we still need to talk about it."

Poroshenko said the energy talks, which would also involve the EU, are scheduled for September 6.

Putin said Russia, Ukraine, and the EU agreed to step up work to allay Moscow’s concerns over Ukraine's Association Agreement with the EU, reiterating that Russia would take protective measures if these concerns are not addressed.

Border Controls

Poroshenko said the two sides had also agreed to hold military consultations on border controls between members of both countries' general staff and border guard commands.

Kyiv has insisted that the only way to end the bloodshed and stabilize the region is by establishing effective border controls.

The Minsk talks came just hours after Ukraine's military said it had captured 10 Russian soldiers, disguised as separatists, who had crossed into Ukraine from Russia in armored vehicles.

Spokesman Andriy Lysenko said the Russian tank column was stopped after a battle against Ukrainian forces outside the town of Novoazovsk on the Sea of Azov, despite what he alleged was support from Russian artillery fired from across the border.

Lysenko said the 10 Russian paratroopers it captured in the battle were in Ukraine on a "special mission."

Ukraine's military released a video on August 26 showing the captured soldiers.

In the footage, a man who identifies himself as Corporal Ivan Milchakov from the 331st Parachute Regiment said they'd been told they would be going into Ukraine on a three-day mission but were not told their exact objectives.

WATCH: Heavy Shelling Reported In Southeast Ukraine

Russian Defense Ministry officials admitted on August 26 that Russian soldiers had crossed into Ukrainian territory but said they had accidentally crossed an unmarked section of the border.

AP reports that pro-Russian rebels fired 10 artillery shells at Novoazovsk on August 27 in response to fire from government forces. Plumes of black smoke could be seen rising above the town, which was also heavily shelled on August 26.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press quotes the Finnish Foreign Ministry as saying the United States and Russia held secret talks on the Ukraine crisis in Finland in June.

Ministry spokesman Vesa Hakkinen said the ministry helped organize the meeting but declined to give more information.

Earlier this month, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto met Putin and traveled to Ukraine for talks with Poroshenko. Niinisto's office said on August 26 that he was not involved in the secret talks.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP, ITAR-TASS, and the BBC