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Ukraine

Poroshenko pleads with Russia to withdraw troops from Ukraine

A day after a ceasefire was held on the frontline in eastern Ukraine, President Petro Poroshenko has urged Russia to withdraw its troops. His visit to Australia also saw talks over potential uranium and coal supplies.

During a visit to Australia on Thursday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko pleaded with Russia to withdraw its troops from his country and close to the Ukraine-Russia border.

"Please stop the fire. Please release the hostages. Please withdraw your troops from my territory," Poroshenko said in a joint press conference with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

"Please close the border. And I promise if you close the border, within one, two, three weeks, we have peace and stability in Ukraine. Very simple," he added.

'Day of silence'

Poroshenko's plea to Moscow came just a day after a ceasefire was held along the frontline in eastern Ukraine.

In light of the Flight 17 disaster over rebel-held territory in which 38 Australian citizens and residents died, Australia and Ukraine have formed closer ties in recent months.

Abbott and other Western leaders have accused Russia of providing military support for those who shot down the plane. Russian state-run TV, however, blamed Ukraine's air force.

Asked on Thursday if Australia was now taking sides in a European war, Abbott replied: "The side we take is the side of freedom, democracy and self-determination ... and plainly, freedom, democracy and self-determination are currently at risk in parts of Eastern Europe."

Energy alternatives

During his visit to Australia, Poroschenko also held talks with Abbot over the supply of coal and uranium, as he looks to ease Ukraine's reliance on Russia for gas.

This week Ukraine received its first Russian natural gas shipments since a politically charged price dispute saw Moscow cut off supplies to Ukraine in June.

"We discussed today the possibility of cooperation in the sphere of nuclear energy," Poroschenko told reporters. "There is the possibility for Ukraine to buy Australian uranium for our nuclear power stations."

Any future sales of uranium sales to his country would, however, likely be met with controversy in light of the 1986 explosion at Chernobyl, Ukraine. The disaster was and remains the worst nuclear accident in terms of lives and cost in history.

ksb/cb (AFP, AP, dpa)

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