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MINSK, Sept 5 Representatives of Ukraine, the
pro-Russian separatist leadership, Russia and the OSCE security
watchdog began talks on Friday on resolving the Ukraine
Most participants declined to comment to reporters as they
arrived for the talks in the Belarussian capital, Minsk, but
former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said: "We all came for
peace, that's the most important thing - to find a truce."
President Petro Poroshenko said on Thursday he would
announce a ceasefire if the talks took place although there was
no immediate ceasefire announcement.
News that the talks on securing a ceasefire had started
pushed Moscow shares up.
Fighting began in eastern Ukraine in mid-April and more than
2,600 people have been killed in a crisis that has caused the
biggest strains in Moscow's relations with the West since the
Cold war ended.
A ceasefire agreed in June ended after 10 days because
fighting did not stop, but officials were hopeful any new
agreement could trigger steps to secure a more lasting peace
after Russian President Vladimir Putin and Poroshenko gave it
The two leaders spoke this week by telephone and said they
had reached a level of agreement over a ceasefire, a change of
position for Poroshenko whose troops have been beaten back by a
resurgent rebel force the West says is supported by Russia.
Moscow denies arming the rebels or sending in Russian troops.
Putin also offered a seven-point peace plan which would
leave rebels in control of territory that accounts for about one
tenth of Ukraine's population and an even larger share of its
industry. It would also require Ukraine to remain unaligned.
The rebels said they would also agree as part of the
ceasefire to allow a humanitarian corridor for aid and refugees.
The truce would be monitored by observers from the Organization
for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
(Reporting by Andrei Makhovsky, writing by Elizabeth Piper,
editing by Timothy Heritage)