Putin calling for fresh talks on Ukraine crisis
Russian president Vladimir Putin has called on Ukraine to immediately start talks on a political solution to the crisis in the east of the country.
Mr Putin's said Ukraine should "hold substantive, meaningful talks, not about technical issues but about the question of the political organisation of society and statehood in south-east Ukraine, with the goal of safeguarding the legitimate interests of those people who live there".
Despite the use of the word "statehood", Putin (pictured above on promotional t-shirts in St Petersburg) did not envision sovereignty for the two separatist eastern regions that style themselves as "Novorossiya" (New Russia), a spokesman later clarrified.
Russia previously has called for talks between the central government and the separatist rebels in the east, which Ukrainian forces have been fighting since April.
Although Kiev and Western countries allege Russia has sent in troops and equipment to bolster the pro-Russia rebels, Moscow firmly rejects the accusations.
The Russian leader's statement comes as Ukrainian forces battle against newly strengthened resistance from the rebels. After making gains in recent weeks, Ukraine has been forced to pull out of several towns recently.