A senior U.S. diplomat has called for an immediate end to cease-fire violations in eastern Ukraine, saying a truce reached in February is being violated "on a daily basis."
Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland said the violations of the Western-brokered deal agreed to in February in Minsk by Russia, Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels "need to stop."
Nuland, who was holding talks in Moscow with two Russian deputy foreign ministers, was expected to explore ways of bolstering the fragile truce in a conflict which over the past 13 months has claimed more than 6,100 lives.
She suggested that separatists in eastern Ukraine were responsible for the bulk of the violations and called for OSCE monitors to be allowed in the conflict zone to verify how the cease-fire is being implemented.
The Kremlin highlighted Nuland's Moscow visit as a sign that bilateral relations may be improving in the aftermath of talks in Sochi last week, whic featured U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
"When President Putin received Minister Lavrov and Secretary of State Kerry in Sochi last week, they talked about the need for closer dialogue and a pragmatic exchange of views at various levels," Kremlin Spokesman Dmitri Peskov told reporters in Moscow.
However, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, after meeting with Nuland Monday, was said to have offered a somewhat more downbeat assessment of relations with the U.S., especially on the issue of the conflict in Ukraine.
“From the Russian side it was said that we are not satisfied with the state of [bilateral relations], but we are prepared to continue dialogue and discussion, be that about military-political or humanitarian matters,” said Ryabkov, according to RIA Novosti news agency.
Nuland, who held talks in Kyiv with Ukrainian officials over the weekend before visiting Moscow, has been strongly criticized in Russia in the past over her support of mass protests in Ukraine which led to the ouster of pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych early last year.
Russia, which has called his toppling a coup, blames the conflict in Ukraine on what it sees as meddling by the United States in a region Moscow has traditionally seen as its sphere of influence.
Russia is widely seen as actively supporting the separatists with manpower and weapons, a charge Moscow has repeatedly denied.
Meanwhile in Ukraine, Kyiv authorities on Monday showed two captured prisoners identified as Russian soldiers accused of killing Ukrainian troops. Officials said the two wounded soldiers would be prosecuted for "terrorist acts."
In a video posted by the Interior Ministry, one of the captives identifies himself by name and says he was on a spying mission as part of a Russian special forces unit sent from the Russian town of Togliatti.
Some material for this report came from RFE/RL and Reuters.