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Putin Backs Poroshenko's Cease-Fire, Calls For 'Dialogue'

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (left) visits the restive Donbas region on June 20
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (left) visits the restive Donbas region on June 20
Russian television has shown President Vladimir Putin giving cautious support to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's unilateral cease-fire but also saying that any cessation of hostilities is meaningless without "dialogue."

Appearing on the Rossia 24 television channel on June 22, Putin said fighting in eastern Ukraine between government forces and pro-Russian separatists needed to stop.

But Putin said reconciliation in Ukraine depended upon a "dialogue among all the warring factions" in order to find solutions that are acceptable to everyone, particularly people in southeastern Ukraine.

Putin also said that there was artillery fire overnight from Ukrainian territory, and that some shells had landed in Russian territory. But he said it was not clear who was responsible for firing those barrages.

Putin did not say where in Russia the artillery shells landed.

Putin has also ordered military forces in central Russia to be on "full combat alert" in a surprise test of their battle readiness.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the alert in the Central Military District will last until June 28.

The chief of the Russian General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, said the weeklong drill will involve about 65,000 troops, including airborne forces.

Gerasimov said about 180 military planes, 60 helicopters, and some 5,500 units of military equipment will also be involved.

The drill comes after NATO announced during the past week that Russia had resumed a military build-up on the border with Ukraine.

On June 22, Putin also spoke about the Ukraine crisis in a three-way telephone call with French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

According to a statement from the French president's office, Hollande and Merkel "reiterated the importance of ensuring full control of the Russian-Ukrainian border in order to avoid infiltrations of equipment and armed men."

A Kremlin statement stressed the need for Kyiv to start negotiations with "representatives of the protesting regions" in eastern Ukraine.

On June 21, Poroshenko said in a televised speech that he had an alternative plan in case the unilateral cease-fire he declared on June 20 failed to take hold.

Poroshenko said the cease-fire was announced to provide time for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine to disarm.

But he also said, "For those who hope to use the cease-fire to play for time, to regroup their forces, they have to know -- we have a plan B."

LIVE BLOG: Ukraine In Crisis

Despite Poroshenko's declaration of a cease-fire, separatist leader Pavel Gubarev told Rossia 24 TV that either Ukrainian forces were not obeying orders or Poroshenko "is lying."

Gubarev, the self-declared "governor" within the separatist movement in Donetsk that has declared an independent "Donetsk People's Republic," says there has been "no cease-fire at all."

Meanwhile, the White House said in a statement that Vice President Joe Biden spoke on the phone with Ukrainian President Poroshenko on June 22 to discuss the implementation of Poroshenko's peace plan.

The statement said that Poroshenko informed Biden that "Russian-backed separatists continued to attack Ukrainian forces, including with the use of artillery, following the cease-fire declaration."

Biden reiterated that Washington and its partners were preparing new economic sanctions against Russia if Moscow did not stop "the flow of arms and militants across the border and use its influence to publicly call on the separatists to lay down their arms."
With reporting by Rossia 24, ITAR-TASS, and Interfax
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