Ukraine's new Western-backed leader yesterday agreed to dialogue with separatists not implicated in "murder and torture" as he laid out a peace plan that Russian President Vladimir Putin promised to back.
Petro Poroshenko's initiative follows his announcement on Friday of a week-long unilateral ceasefire in the government's 10-week campaign against pro-Russian rebels that has claimed more than 375 lives and displaced tens of thousands.
The 48-year-old confectionery tycoon said that a peaceful settlement was "our plan A".
"But those who are planning to use peaceful negotiations only to buy time and regroup their forces must know that we have a detailed plan B," he added in the 12-minute address.
Putin yesterday vowed to stand behind Poroshenko's peace efforts as long as they led to "substantial dialogue" between the two sides.
The Kremlin chief has been sending mixed signals to Kiev that included a surprise order on Saturday for Russian forces stretching from the Volga to western Siberia to go on "full combat alert". Some analysts see this as an effort by Putin -- unable to keep Poroshenko from signing a economic pact with the EU on Friday that will pull Ukraine further out of the Kremlin's reach -- to unsettle the new pro-Western leaders and keep reins on the Russified southeast while avoiding new Western sanctions.