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Ukraine says Kyiv and Moscow agree to ceasefire

Ukraine's president says a ceasefire deal with Russia has been reached. Moscow says the two countries agreed on steps towards peace, but not a ceasefire, as Russia "is not a party to the conflict."

Ukraine's president, Petro Poroshenko, says he and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on a "permanent ceasefire" in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday.

The brief statement gave few details, and there has been no immediate reaction from the Russian-backed separatists whom Ukraine's forces have been fighting since April.

"Mutual understanding was achieved concerning the steps which will enable the establishment of peace," the statement said, after Poroshenko and President Putin spoke by telephone.

"The result of the conversation was agreement on a permanent ceasefire in the Donbas," the collective term for the eastern Ukraine regions.

Russia "not a party to the conflict"

The Kremlin said the two leaders agreed on steps towards peace in eastern Ukraine, but that a ceasefire had not been agreed.

"Putin and Poroshenko really discussed the steps that would contribute to a ceasefire between the militia and the Ukrainian forces. Russia cannot physically agree to a ceasefire because it is not a party to the conflict," said Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov.

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

Kyiv and Western powers allege that Russia has sent troops into Ukraine to back the rebels, but Moscow has rejected the claims.

jr/slk (AP, AFP, Reuters)