Pro-Russian separatists declared a ceasefire Monday in a surprise move that they said they hoped would lead to a settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The announcement Monday came as rebel leaders met with representatives of the Ukrainian government in Kiev, including former president Leonid Kuchma, the Russian ambassador to Ukraine and a representative of the acting chairman of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
“In answer to the ceasefire by Kiev, we commit to a ceasefire from our side,” said Alexander Borodai, the prime minister of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic.
Mr. Borodai said the ceasefire would last until Friday, the same as the ceasefire announced last week by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
“We also hope that in the time of this bilateral ceasefire,” Mr. Borodai continued, “we can agree to begin consultations about the introduction of negotiations about a peaceful settlement of this conflict.”
Mr. Poroshenko declared a unilateral ceasefire Friday by government troops clashing with rebels in the country’s embattled east and unveiled a peace plan to bring an end to the conflict.
The plan proposed amnesty for rebel fighters who had not committed serious crimes and called for decentralization, which would allow for greater self-rule in the east.
However, the plan did not call for negotiations between the government and the separatist leaders of the self-declared republics. President Vladimir Putin of Russia gave cautious support to the peace plan, but said it must lead to talks between both sides.
With tentative support from Russia and Ukraine’s Western allies, including the United States, the ceasefire provides a brief opportunity for the two sides to forge a more lasting agreement for the first time since masked gunmen seized cities throughout eastern Ukraine more than two months ago.
Shortly after the ceasefire was reported, the Kremlin said that Mr. Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama had spoken by telephone.
There is little trust between the patchwork of militias and rebellious political organizations and the government in Kiev. Rebel leaders, including Mr. Borodai, had previously accused Kiev of violating its own ceasefire, and intermittent fighting between Ukrainian and rebel troops has continued since Friday.
Those present at Monday’s meeting called it a “consultation,” and underlined that the talks were not negotiations.
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