December 17, 2014
Confusion as Ukraine and Russia announce progress towards peace
"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.
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 maneuvers in south-central Russia would involve 4,000 troops and extensive use of air power.