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article imagePutin calls for dialogue to settle Ukraine crisis

By Nathan Salant     Jun 23, 2014 in World
Donetsk - What a difference a couple of months makes!
Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin is calling for negotiations to resolve the months-long standoff between Ukraine's government and pro-Russian militants who took over several eastern cities.
This is a big surprise, actually, since Putin appears to be the outsider most responsible for the conflict — by sending Russian troops across the border to capture the Crimean peninsula and then apparently sponsoring armed militias to spread insecurity and violence through eastern Ukraine.
Let's not forget, Putin refused to negotiate during the months of protest in Ukraine that forced a pro-Moscow government from power and the months of tension that culminated in the seizure of Crimea.
And the Crimea invasion was carried out by soldiers in unmarked uniforms and equipment to hide their identities.
Now, this is the guy who wants to talk? Why?
The Ukraine-Russia conflict came to the fore again Sunday between government and militia forces flared at several hotspots in the former Soviet republic.
Ukraine declared a unilateral ceasefire that has not been accepted by militants and has not stopped the violence.
But Putin and Ukraine's new president, Petro Poroshenko, seemed to agree on the need for peace at World War II commemorations last week, according to the Reuters news service.
"Unfortunately, what we are seeing ... tells us that the fighting is still going on and last night we saw some active use of artillery from the Ukrainian side," Putin said Sunday, after laying flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow.
But Poroshenko wants Putin to support Ukraine's 15-point peace plan announced Friday, which includes Kiev's free-trade deal with the European Union, Reuters said.
And Putin cannot be happy with that, considering Moscow's insistence on a free-trade deal between Ukraine and Russia actually set off the crisis.
"We need to ensure that all fighting is stopped," Putin said Sunday.
"Ultimately the political process is the most important — it is important that this ceasefire lead to dialogue between all opposing sides in order to find compromises acceptable for all," he said.
French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke with Putin by telephone on Sunday to urge negotiations, officials said.
But the situation on the ground was far less civilized, Reuters said.
Ukraine's border service reported rebel attacks in the Luhansk region, separatists reported mortar fire from Ukrainian troops near the countries' shared border and a shootout with Ukraine's forces near Donetsk, the city that declared independence earlier this month.
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