President Vladimir Putin has unveiled a seven-point plan for peace in Ukraine which he said could be approved by rival sides in the conflict during talks scheduled for September 5.
“In order to halt bloodletting and stabilise the situation in southeastern Ukraine” Putin called on both Kiev and pro-Russian separatists on Wednesday to quickly agree to implement his roadmap.
Ukraine’s president immediately rejected the plan as an attempt to deceive the West about Moscow’s real intentions.
“This latest plan is another attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the international community ahead of the NATO summit and an attempt to avert the EU’s inevitable decision to unleash a new wave of sanctions against Russia,” Petro Poroshenko said in a statement.
US President Barack Obama, on a highly symbolic visit to former Soviet republic and new NATO member Estonia, said it was “too early to tell” if the ceasefire deal would hold on the ground.
His trip comes one day ahead of a NATO summit in Wales, where the military alliance will discuss Ukraine’s crisis.
The first point of the Russian’s president’s plan is a “halt to active offensive operations by military forces and armed rebel units” around the rebel strongholds of Donetsk and Lugansk, Putin said in televised comments during a visit to the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar.
The roadmap also calls for a withdrawal by Ukrainian forces to positions from which they cannot shell cities, and a halt to air strikes by Kiev’s military.
The blueprint also calls for deploying international observers to monitor a ceasefire, the unconditional release of all prisoners, the establishment of corridors for refugees and humanitarian aid, and the dispatch of aid to rebuild infrastructure in Donetsk and Luhansk, which have been the brunt of intense fighting.
“I believe that a final agreement between the authorities of Kiev and southeastern Ukraine can be reached and cemented during a meeting of the Contact Group on September 5,” said Putin.
The Ukraine Contact Group, which includes representatives of Kiev, the separatist rebels, Moscow and the OSCE is scheduled to meet on Friday.
Earlier on Wednesday, Poroshenko was positive about today’s talks between the two leaders.
“The parties reached mutual understanding on the steps that will facilitate the establishment of peace,” amending an earlier statement that had spoken of agreement on a “permanent ceasefire”.
Rebels have been battling Kiev’s forces in the mainly Russian-speaking Donbas region, which is home to most of Ukraine’s heavy industry and accounts for about 18 percent of the country’s economic output.
On Monday, Ukraine’s military pulled its forces back from defending a vital airport in the east against what is described as a column of Russian tanks, with Poroshenko accusing Moscow of “direct and open aggression”.
The withdrawal from the civilian airport outside the city of Luhansk was the latest in a string of reverses for Ukrainian forces fighting pro-Russian rebels who Kiev says have the direct support of hundreds of Russian troops and armour.
Moscow has at various times denied either sending or planning to deploy troops into eastern Ukraine.