Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday called for the launching of a peace process "as soon as possible" in eastern Ukraine, the scene in recent months of heavy combat between government forces and pro-Russian separatists.
"For its part, Russia will do everything possible to (push) this peace process. This process must begin as soon as possible," Putin said to the Russian press after the summit in Minsk with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
After meeting for the first time without mediators with the Ukrainian president, Putin emphasized that Moscow will not impose conditions for a cease-fire in Ukraine.
"What we want is to contribute to create an atmosphere of confidence during this, from my point of view, very necessary negotiating process," he told the Russian press.
Putin said that he had agreed with Poroshenko to quickly resume meetings of the Contact Group consisting of Ukraine, Russia and the European Union, in Minsk to find a way to resolve the conflict.
Meanwhile, both countries also have decided to cooperate in providing humanitarian aid to the city of Lugansk, which is controlled by the rebels but has been besieged for weeks by Ukrainian government forces.
"I don't want to discuss the situation too early, but we have reached concrete agreements on the matter," he said.
The Kremlin chief, who last week authorized a Russian humanitarian convoy consisting of some 200 heavy trucks to cross the Ukrainian border without Kiev's permission, on Tuesday described the situation in the conflict zone as "catastrophic."
Regarding the incursion by Russian soldiers into Ukrainian territory, Putin said he had not yet received a report on the matter from his Defense Ministry, but he acknowledged that troops "patrolled the border and could have wound up in Ukrainian territory."
Regarding the matter of energy, Putin said that bilateral consultations had been under way about the supply and pipeline transit of natural gas across Ukrainian territory to Europe, a situation on which the two nations have been at odds for months.
Putin described as "positive" and "useful" his first face to face meeting with Poroshenko, which took place after multiparty talks involving the two leaders, the presidents of Belarus and Kazakhstan and EU representatives.
Meanwhile, Poroshenko announced that Moscow and Kiev will hold "immediate" talks to normalize the situation along their mutual border, where Ukraine says that Russian weaponry and mercenaries are infiltrating to support the rebel militias.
In addition, he said that plans were being worked out to create a "roadmap" for the entry into force of a bilateral cease-fire that would be supervised by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE.
"We have demonstrated that the main objective with which we came to Minsk is peace. Finally, the logic of the peace plan was supported by all the heads of state, without exception," he emphasized.
Poroshenko also confirmed that talks on gas shipments between Russia and Ukraine would resume on Sept. 6 with the mediation of the European energy commissioner, Günther Oettinger.
Meanwhile, the head of European diplomacy, Catherine Ashton, proposed during the Minsk summit the start of cease-fire negotiations, full control of the borders and the provision of humanitarian aid in accord with international norms.
The Minsk summit has been the first international attempt to reach a compromise between Kiev and Moscow to peacefully resolve the conflict in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian rebels - ostensibly aided by Russia, a charge the Kremlin has repeatedly denied - began fighting to secede in April. EFE