The foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and France have agreed on a package of steps for a resumption of the cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, where security forces have been battling pro-Russian separatists.
In a joint statement after talks in Berlin on July 2, the ministers said the steps include reopening talks no later than July 5 on a cease-fire to be monitored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier described the Berlin meeting as “constructive,” adding that all participants “realize what responsibility we bear.”
The four ministers agreed that the violence should cease on all sides, hostages be released, and Ukraine border points with Russia be brought back under government control.
They welcomed Russia's readiness to grant Ukrainian border guards access to Russian territory to take part in controlling the border checkpoints of Gukovo and Donetsk once the cease-fire is in place.
Steinmeier described the package as a "first and an important step toward a bilateral cease-fire,” but cautioned that it is not “a magic formula to resolve everything overnight.”
Ukrainian forces pressed ahead with a military offensive against pro-Russian separatists in the east after President Petro Poroshenko ended a 10-day cease-fire June 30.
Parliament speaker Oleksandr Turchynov told lawmakers on July 2 that "the armed forces and the National Guard are continuing the offensive on terrorists and criminals. The actions of our military are effective and are having results."
National Security and Defense Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko said four Ukrainian troops were killed as forces carried out more than 100 attacks on rebel positions and cleared separatists from three villages in the last day.
At least nine civilians were reported killed in an attack on a village in the Luhansk region, with the rebels accusing the Ukrainian armed forces of shelling and bombing the village of Luhanska.
However Ukrainian officials claimed their forces were not in the area and blamed the separatists for the deaths.
Rebels in both Luhansk and Donetsk regions have declared independence from the government in Kyiv.
Ukraine and the West say military equipment and reinforcements are flowing across the border from Russia, but Moscow denies arming the rebels.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on July 2 that Russia's actions in Ukraine "threaten the peace and security we have built after the fall of the Berlin Wall."
He spoke after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.
Based on reporting by AFP, AP, Interfax, and ITAR-TASS