Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko says he will meet with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin next week in Italy for talks on a peace plan for eastern Ukraine and an ongoing natural gas dispute.
Poroshenko, speaking Saturday, said the talks will take place on the sidelines of an Asia-Europe summit in Milan, and are likely to include the leaders of Germany, France, Italy and Britain.
The Ukraine leader warned of difficult negotiations, while telling reporters "we are very close" to settling the gas dispute with Moscow.
Russia shut off gas deliveries to energy-dependent Ukraine in June, over what Moscow claims are more than $5 billion in unpaid energy bills. The cutoff raises the specter of significant shortages in Kyiv and beyond, as the predictably harsh Eurasian winter approaches.
Meanwhile, Ukraine defense spokesman Andriy Lysenko says attacks by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine's embattled east appear to be subsiding. Speaking Saturday in Kyiv, he said Ukraine forces are ready to withdraw heavy weaponry from the front where rebels and government forces have battled for months.
Separately, rebel leader Oleksandr Zakharchenko told reporters in Donetsk that separatists could begin a similar frontline artillery withdrawal in five days.