Putin talks with Ukraine's leader, fighting widens

Vladimir Putin (Robert Cianflone, 2014 Getty Images)
Vladimir Putin (Robert Cianflone, 2014 Getty Images)
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Updated: 8/26 1:29 pm

MINSK, Belarus (AP) — There have been no one-on-one meetings today between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine's Petro Poroshenko, although they did sit down with other leaders in Belarus for their first face-to-face meeting since June.

From their opening remarks, however, it appeared unlikely that they would find common ground.

Poroshenko said the purpose of his visit was to start searching for a political compromise to end the fighting between his troops and pro-Russia rebels in eastern Ukraine. He promised that the interests of Russian speakers in that region would be taken into account.

But Putin devoted most of his opening remarks to trade. He argued that Ukraine's decision to sign an agreement with the 28-nation EU would lead to huge losses for Russia, which would then be forced to protect its economy.

Russia had been hoping Ukraine would join a rival economic union it is forming with Belarus and Kazakhstan.

As for the fighting, Putin said it can't be ended simply by military force, and without considering what he called "the vital interests of the southeast of the country."

Today's meeting came as Ukraine said it had captured 10 Russian soldiers in eastern Ukraine. The fighting, meanwhile, spread to a new front in the southeast.

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