Kiev and pro-Russia rebels have agreed a memorandum on a peace plan for the conflict in east Ukraine.
The nine-point deal includes setting up a 19-mile buffer zone, a ban on overflights of part of eastern Ukraine by military aircraft and the withdrawal of “foreign mercenaries” on both sides.
The agreement was announced at talks in the Belarusian capital Minsk, where a ceasefire was agreed on September 5.
More than 3,000 have died in fighting in two eastern regions since April.
The original cease-fire has been frequently violated but is still holding.
Ukraine accuses Russia of arming separatists and sending Russian troops to the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The Kremlin denies it has any role there.
In a separate development on Saturday, a humanitarian convoy of about 200 trucks from Russia has arrived in the city of Donetsk, Russian news agencies report.
They say the convoy – Russia’s third in recent weeks – delivered food, water and generators, but this was done without Ukraine’s authorization.
Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, representing Kiev at Minsk talks, said that all sides had agreed to move back some of their heavy weapons (photo AP)
The deal was reached after late-night talks between representatives of Ukraine, Russia, eastern separatists and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Correspondents say it is an effort to add substance to the fragile ceasefire agreement.
Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, representing Kiev at Minsk talks, said that all sides had agreed to move back some of their heavy weapons.
“Heavy artillery will be moved 15 km away from the front line,” he said.
He added that the deal would be implemented within 24 hours and monitors from the OSCE would travel to the buffer zone to check for compliance.
Separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko said that the two sides did not discuss the status of the rebel-held areas of Luhansk and Donetsk.
“We have our opinion on it while Ukraine has its own,” he said.
Earlier this week, Ukraine’s parliament passed a bill granting a three-year “self-rule” to parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions – a move described as “capitulation” by some Ukrainian lawmakers.
The Russian ambassador to Ukraine, Mikhail Zurabov, representing Moscow at the talks, said that “mercenaries” were fighting on both sides, and called on OSCE to oversee their removal.
Russia has repeatedly said that any of its citizens fighting alongside separatists in Ukraine are doing so in a private capacity.
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Russia has called for immediate Ukraine ceasefire talks in the Belarusian capital Minsk.
Ukrainian troops “must leave positions from which they can harm the civilian population”, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
Ukrainian and Russian officials are due to hold talks with separatist rebels and international monitors in Minsk on September 1.
Some 2,600 people have died in eastern Ukraine since fighting began in April.
The conflict broke out after Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s southern Crimea peninsula in March.
Last week’s first direct talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, did not lead to any major breakthrough.
The separatists have been gaining ground on Ukrainian forces in recent days, in both the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, and further south around the port of Mariupol.
First direct talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, did not lead to any major breakthrough (photo Reuters)
Ukrainian military spokesman Leonid Matyukhin said troops were battling a Russian tank division in the city of Luhansk.
Overnight reports said separatists had taken control of the airport there.
On Monday, September 1, Sergei Lavrov said he was counting on the Minsk talks to focus on “agreeing an immediate and unconditional ceasefire.
He added that there would be “no military intervention” from Russia in Ukraine.
“We are for an exclusively peaceful resolution of that most serious crisis, that tragedy,” Sergei Lavrov told students in Moscow.
The meeting of the so-called Contact Group in Minsk will include representatives from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
On the eve of the talks, President Vladimir Putin said the issues of “statehood” for eastern Ukraine needed to be discussed to ensure the interests of local people were “definitely upheld”.
“Russia cannot stand aside when people are being shot at almost at point blank,” he said, describing the rebels’ actions as “the natural reaction of people who are defending their rights”.
Vladimir Putin’s comments came after the EU gave Russia a one-week ultimatum to reverse course in Ukraine or face more sanctions.
He dismissed the EU threat, accusing it of “backing a coup d’etat” in Ukraine.
The EU and US have already imposed asset freezes and travel bans on many senior Russian officials and separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko says a “roadmap” will be prepared to end fighting between troops and pro-Russian separatists in the east after meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Belarus.
Vladimir Putin said Russia would assist a dialogue, but stopping the fighting was a matter for Ukraine itself.
Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of arming the rebels, a claim repeatedly denied by the Kremlin.
“A roadmap will be prepared in order to achieve, as soon as possible, a ceasefire regime which absolutely must be bilateral in character,” Petro Poroshenko said after two hours of direct talks with Vladimir Putin in Minsk.
Earlier this year, Petro Poroshenko declared a unilateral ceasefire but accused the rebels of not following suit.
Prior to their one-to-one meeting, Petro Poroshenko and Vladimir Putin also took part in discussions with the EU’s top diplomat Catherine Ashton.
The summit came after 10 Russian soldiers were seized in Ukraine’s east.
Petro Poroshenko met Vladimir Putin for direct talks in Belarus
More than 2,000 people have died in fighting between Ukrainian forces and separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk.
The two regions declared independence from Kiev following Russia’s annexation of the southern Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in March.
In a statement on his website after the talks, President Petro Poroshenko added: “Our main goal is peace. We are demanding decisive actions which will bring peace on Ukrainian soil.”
“The logic of a peace plan was after all supported by all the heads of state without exception.”
Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin said at a news conference: “Russia, for its part, will do everything to support this peace process if it starts.”
However, he stressed that it was up to the government in Kiev and separatist leaders in the east to work out conditions for a truce.
Petro Poroshenko and Vladimir Putin reportedly agreed to hold further consultations between Ukraine’s and Russia’s border guard agencies.
The meeting came as part of a summit taking place under the auspices of the Moscow-led Eurasian Customs Union, which also includes Belarus and Kazakhstan.
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