(Adds detail on fighting, Poroshenko comments, Kiev dateline)
MOSCOW/KIEV, June 22 Fighting flared between
Ukrainian and pro-Moscow separatist forces, both sides reported
on Sunday, further straining a unilateral ceasefire declared by
Ukraine as Russian President Vladimir Putin pressed Kiev to talk
to the rebels.
Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, at separate
ceremonies marking the anniversary of Nazi Germany's invasion of
the Soviet Union, both stressed the need to bring peace to
Ukraine's rebellious east.
The seven-day ceasefire came under pressure almost as soon
at it began on Friday night, with the government accusing the
separatists of attacking its military bases and posts on the
Russian border. The violence continued for a second night into
"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 after laying
flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow.
He said it was not clear whether artillery was used by the
Ukrainian army or the "so-called paramilitary of the right-wing
forces" supporting the government. He appeared to attach no
blame to separatist forces.
Poroshenko wants Putin's unqualified backing for a 15-point
peace plan he announced on Friday, before meetings with the
European Union in the coming week. These will include the
signing on June 27 of an association agreement with the bloc
which includes a free trade deal.
In his comments published on the Kremlin website, Putin
repeated his support for the ceasefire and peace plan in only
"We need to ensure that all fighting is stopped," he said.
"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."
The insurgency in the largely Russian-speaking east erupted
in April after street protests in the capital Kiev toppled the
Moscow-backed leader Viktor Yanukovich. Russia subsequently
annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula and the West has accused
Russia of supporting the insurgency.
French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor
Angela Merkel urged Putin by telephone on Sunday to work for the
resumption of talks to end the conflict, Hollande's office said.
The two leaders "reiterated the importance of ensuring full
control of the Russia-Ukraine border to prevent the infiltration
of gunmen and military equipment", the statement said.
In Kiev, Poroshenko stressed the need for dialogue, saying
his plan "was specifically put together to ensure peace, the
laying down of weapons and to establish, through talks, a single
united state", news agency Interfax Ukraine quoted him as
Ukraine's state border service reported further rebel
attacks on its posts in Luhansk region on Sunday, while a
separatist spokesman said Ukrainian forces were firing mortars
at a village near the Russian frontier.
In Donetsk region, which like Luhansk has declared itself a
'people's republic', rebels reported a morning shootout with
Ukrainian troops in Siversk, north of the city of Donetsk.
(Reporting By Alexei Anishchuk in Moscow, Aleksandar Vasovic in
Siversk, Alessandra Prentice in Kiev, Laurence Frost in Paris;
Editing by Richard Balmforth and David Stamp)