Ukraine said on Wednesday its president had agreed with Russia‘s Vladimir Putin on steps towards a “ceasefire regime” in Kiev’s conflict with pro-Russian rebels, but the Kremlin denied any actual truce deal, sowing confusion on the eve of a NATO summit.
“The parties reached mutual understanding on the steps that will facilitate the establishment of peace,” said a statement by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s office, replacing an earlier statement that had spoken of a “permanent ceasefire”.
Putin’s spokesman said the leaders agreed on steps towards peace but not a ceasefire in the conflict, which has killed more than 2,600 people since April and provoked the worst crisis in relations between Russia and the West since the Cold War.
“Putin and Poroshenko really discussed the steps that would contribute to a ceasefire between the militia and the Ukrainian forces. Russia cannot physically agree to a ceasefire because it is not a party to the conflict,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
That position is disputed by Kiev and Western governments, which say Russian troops are fighting alongside the pro-Moscow separatists.
Despite the confusion, the statements appeared to indicate a degree of progress that could influence European Union leaders as they consider introducing new sanctions against Russia as early as Friday.
In a contradictory signal, Moscow simultaneously announced plans for huge military exercises this month by the strategic rocket forces responsible for its long-range nuclear weapons. It said the manoeuvres in south-central Russia would involve 4,000 troops and extensive use of air power.
The Crossroads of Special Operations