Vladimir Putin is supporting calls for a cease-fire in the conflict with Ukraine, a step that many believe could lead to the end of the crisis between the nations.
In expressing support for the compromise, Putin said that Russian-speaking residents of eastern Ukraine must be an “integral part” of their nation. In that region, separatists had declared independence and asked to join Russia.
The Russian government at first decried a peace plan put forward by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, but the next day Putin said he would welcome a cease-fire and supported Poroshenko’s “intention to take other concrete steps to reach a peaceful settlement.”
Poroshenko had suggested giving the region more political authority and offered to hold new local and parliamentary elections. He also proposed measures to protect language rights of the Russian-speaking population.
“That President Poroshenko announced a truce is without a doubt an important part of a final settlement, without which no agreement can be reached, and there is no doubt that Russia will support this intention, but in the end the most important thing is a political process,” Putin said.
Vladimir Putin has also discussed the cease-fire with European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“After the Russian government too referred to the cease-fire in positive terms, the interlocutors emphasized the need for all sides to abide by it now and for a political dialogue to be put in motion,” Merkel’s office said in a statement. “Another topic of the conversation was the issue of securing the Ukrainian-Russian border.”
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine had grown more intense in recent weeks, with military actions and a measure by Russia to cut off natural gas supplies to Ukraine. The United States also ramped up sanctions against Russia in an attempt to squeeze the nation into giving up the fight.
The cease-fire now appears to have also cooled tensions between Russia and the United States. This weekend U.S. Vice President Joe Biden welcomed the cease-fire in a telephone conversation with the Ukrainian president.
Biden did express worry that some of the separatists were not enthusiastic about the cease-fire, but Vladimir Putin has sprung into action on that front as well. He appealed to both sides to stop military action and begin negotiations to end the conflict.