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Putin, Poroshenko fine-tune Ukraine ceasefire expectations

Comments from both Ukrainian President Poroshenko and Russian President Putin seem to indicate the two sides of the east Ukraine conflict are coming to an agreement. The details and timeline, however, remain unclear.

Kyiv and Moscow have given indications of a possible de-escalation in tensions in eastern Ukraine, but appear to be a little misaligned on the messaging.

Initially on Wednesday, Petro Poroshenko announced that Ukraine and Russia had brokered a ceasefire that would see an end to the fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine.

The Kremlin denied this, saying the two leaders had only agreed on steps towards peace because Russia was "not a party to the conflict."

Shortly after, Poroskenko released a second statement that scaled things back, saying instead that he and Vladimir Putin had "reached mutual understanding on the steps that will facilitate the establishment of peace."

On the same page?

Later on Wednesday, comments from Putin indicated he and Poroshenko were in agreement on the next steps toward peace but had not reached a deal for a total ceasefire.

"Our views on the way to resolve the conflict, as it seemed to me, are very close," Putin told reporters in Mongolia.

He added that a complete agreement could be reached on Friday, when talks between the separatists, government officials from Ukraine and Russia, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) are scheduled to be held in Minsk.

Putin spoke to the conditions of a ceasefire, saying Ukraine must withdraw all its troops and pro-Russian separatists must agree to stop offensive actions in eastern Ukraine. He said international monitors must be in place to observe any truce that is reached as well.

Obama: "too early to tell"

US President Barack Obama told a news conference in Estonia that "it's too early to tell" how serious the truce reports were.

Obama said no realistic deal could be achieved if Russia continued to aid separatists by sending send tanks and troops into Ukraine.

The US President was speaking after talks with Baltic leaders. His trip is aimed at reassuring Eastern European nations anxious over Russia's aggression in Ukraine.

It comes a day ahead of a NATO summit in Newport, Wales, in which Obama and Western allies will approve plans to position at least 4,000 troops and military equipment in Eastern Europe.

Almost 2,600 people have died in Ukraine's conflict since April, when separatists began battling government forces shortly after Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula in March.

Earlier on Wednesday, it was announced that Russian photojournalist Andrei Stenin had been killed in eastern Ukraine. Stenin had gone missing in August.

mz,jr/sb (AP, Reuters, dpa)

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