Conflicting reports of a Ukraine cease-fire emerge a day before NATO summit

BY Associated Press and newsdesk  September 3, 2014 at 7:29 AM EST
A pro-Russia militant stands guard on a road near Donetsk, on August 18, 2014. Photo by Dimitar Kilkoff/Getty Images

A pro-Russia militant stands guard on a road near Donetsk, on August 18, 2014. Photo by Dimitar Kilkoff/Getty Images

TALLINN, Estonia — Russian President Vladimir Putin issued an order to stop the advance of Russian-backed insurgents in Ukraine on Wednesday. The order came after news broke of a possible cease-fire negotiated between Ukraine forces and the separatists, contingent on both sides drawing down forces. But because separatist forces claim they don’t officially take orders from Moscow, the status of the cease fire was unclear.

President Obama reacted to early news of the possible cease-fire saying “it’s too early to tell” if the aggressions would actually stop. Obama spoke from Estonia, where he is traveling ahead of the NATO summit.

Obama said the U.S. has consistently supported efforts by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to achieve a meaningful cease-fire that could lead to a political settlement after months of conflict between the countries.

Early in the day, Poroshenko’s office said that he and Russian President Vladimir Putin had reached agreement on a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have spent months battling the government in Kiev. Wednesday’s statement said mutual understanding was reached. It provided no details.

But hours later the government in Kiev retracted the claim of a lasting cease-fire, saying that the earlier statement had gone too far, the New York Times reports.

“Putin and Poroshenko did indeed discuss steps which could facilitate a cease-fire between the militias and the Ukrainian military,” Mr. Peskov was quoted as saying by the news agency RIA Novosti. “Russia cannot physically agree on a cease-fire, as it is not a side in the conflict,” he added.

The initial statement, posted on the presidential website, went too far in describing the results of a telephone call between the two leaders as having reached a cease-fire, said a spokesman, noting that a revised version would be posted shortly.

Obama says no realistic settlement can be achieved if Russia continues to send tanks and troops into Ukraine under the guise of separatists.

Obama commented at a news conference in Estonia.