Pro-Russian militants sit by a young girl during a hot summer day by the lake in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, on June 8, 2014. AFP PHOTO / DANIEL MIHAILESCU
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Ukraine's new Western-backed President Petro Poroshenko got down Sunday to the Herculean task of pacifying a deadly pro-Kremlin insurgency and averting a devastating Russian gas cut.Poroshenko flatly rejected dialogue with "gangsters and killers" who have declared independence in two heavily Russified eastern regions and are waging a bloody campaign against Ukrainian forces that Kiev and the West accuse the Kremlin of choreographing.The outlines of a possible solution to the crisis seemed in evidence Friday when Russian President Vladimir Putin, nudged by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, held what he described as a brief but "very positive" meeting with Poroshenko during D-Day commemorations in France. Putin appeared to respond to U.S. pressure Saturday by demanding extra protection of Russia's western border in order to stem the flow of militants and weapons into Ukraine. The seeming shift in Putin's aggressive approach prompted Poroshenko to indicate he might receive a top Russian envoy for talks Sunday. Poroshenko was the top vote-getter in both the Donetsk and Lugansk districts despite his vow to use force if necessary to keep Ukraine whole."As strange as it may seem, it is these very imperialistic ambitions of Putin that made the people of Ukraine start to increasingly demonstrate the unity of a hardened nation," respected military analyst Valentyn Badrak wrote in Kiev's Dzerkalo Tyzhnia weekly. He added that Poroshenko's promise to quickly crush the insurgency may only further weaken Putin's hand.
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