Russia said it is ready to take practical steps to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine in line with a cease-fire plan outlined by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow hopes the plan will be heeded in Ukraine and in the eastern Ukrainian cities of Luhansk and Donetsk.
He said Russia is ready to take practical steps toward de-escalation together with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
The foreign minister made his remarks at a meeting Thursday with OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President Ilkka Kanerva.
Luhansk and Donetsk are both controlled by pro-Russian rebels seeking autonomy from Ukrainian rule.
However, NATO’s secretary-general dismissed Putin’s seven-step plan to end the fighting in eastern Ukraine, as alliance leaders gathered in Britain for their first summit in two years.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen derided Putin’s approach as a “so-called peace plan," adding that what counts is what is happening on the ground in eastern Ukraine, where the West says Russian troops are fighting with separatists against the Ukrainian military. Russia denies the charge.
Also Thursday, Russian said it believes France will fulfill a contract to deliver two Mistral helicopter carriers, Industry Minister Denis Manturov was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.
“Russia assumes that the contract will be fulfilled according to the agreements,” he was quoted as saying.
French President Francois Hollande's office said on Wednesday that Paris would not deliver the first of the two helicopter carriers for now because of Moscow's actions in eastern Ukraine.
On Wednesday, Putin had unveiled a 7-point plan to halt the separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine. It calls for a large-scale Ukrainian military pullback in the Russian-speaking east and the deployment of international monitors.
President Putin said his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, agrees with the 7-point plan.
Poroshenko released a statement that avoided direct reference to details in Putin's announcement. But he acknowledged talks with the Russian leader on ending what he called "this terrible process," saying "there is no denying that people must stop dying."
Truce talks on Friday
The two leaders spoke by phone on Wednesday. They said they hoped that truce talks would advance on Friday, when envoys from Moscow, Kyiv, the separatist movement and the OSCE resume talks in Belarus.
The rebellion in eastern Ukraine, launched in April by pro-Russian separatists, has killed more than 2,600 people and created tens of thousands of refugees fleeing areas near the Russian border.
Rebels dug in near the eastern cities of Luhansk and Donetsk -- bolstered by what analysts say is new Russian aid -- have made rapid advances in recent days, routing Ukrainian forces near the border and creating chaos in outlying communities.
Russia has consistently denied the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine, while rebel leaders say Russian soldiers have been volunteering vacation time to battle Ukrainian troops on Ukrainian soil.
Al Pessin contributed to this report from Wales, some material for this report came from Reuters.