Putin arrives in Minsk, may hold bilateral talks with Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin is arriving in Minsk for talks with the leaders of the member states of the Eurasian Customs Union, Ukraine and representatives of the EU. Putin could also hold a bilateral meeting with Petro Poroshenko, the Kremlin said.
The negotiations will be as part of a Customs Union summit, which also includes the Ukrainian president and representatives of the European Commission, said the Kremlin's press service. The Customs Union comprises Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
The humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine will be discussed during the meeting between the Customs Union and Ukraine, according to Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
"[One] can't ignore the catastrophic situation in eastern regions of Ukraine, especially in Donetsk and Lugansk [Regions]," he said, adding that the key issue on the agenda is "the relations between and countries of the Customs Union and Ukraine, including in the aftermath of the signing of the Kiev Association Agreement."
Peskov also didn't exclude the bilateral meeting between Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart.
"There are many issues for discussion [between Putin and Poroshenko]," he said, "They [issues] include Ukrainian domestic crisis and terrible humanitarian catastrophe in the country's east, and the necessity of the ceasefire."
Putin and Poroshenko may also discuss "bilateral relations between Russian Federation and Ukraine," including in the aftermath of Kiev's signing the European Trade Association Agreement with the EU.
The bilateral talks between Putin and Poroshenko, if they take place, will be the first negotiations between the leaders. They last met during the D-Day anniversary commemorations in Normandy, France on June 6 - a day before Poroshenko's inauguration as Ukrainian president. However, that meeting lasted less than 10 minutes and included German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande.
In Minsk, the European Union will be represented by foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger and Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht.
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko said ahead of the talks that he intends to discuss a peaceful way of settling the crisis in eastern Ukraine.
"The intensity of the dialogue [in Minsk] will be very high," said Poroshenko, adding that the key issue of the talks will be peace.
"The Ukrainian nation and I stand firm that a peaceful plan of [solving crisis in] Ukraine should come into force," he added.
Kiev's military crackdown in the southeast of the country began in April after the people in eastern Donetsk and Lugansk Regions refused to recognize the new coup-imposed authorities and demanded federalization of the country.
According to the UN, over 2,000 people have so far been killed and over 5,000 wounded in the fighting.
On Monday, Russia commenced the distribution of humanitarian aid in the city of Lugansk. But, the humanitarian situation remains "critical" in the city as people are forced to survive without electricity, water and communications due to ongoing fighting between the Kiev troops and the local self-defense forces, Lugansk City Council said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov spoke about the necessity of talks in Minsk to regulate the situation in Ukraine's east.
"All the participants [of the talks in Minsk] agree that it is necessary to start a political dialogue," said Lavrov.
He added that Russia is willing and ready to participate in full in any type of negotiations on ending hostilities in the east, and expressed hope that the meeting in Minsk will include a focus on the crisis in Ukraine.
"We [Russia] are ready to all type of negotiations, if only we had a result," he added.