Volunteers attend a training session at the base of Ukrainian self-defence battalion "Azov" in the southern coastal town of Mariupol September 3, 2014. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko
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President Vladimir Putin outlined plans for a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday but Ukraine's prime minister dismissed the proposal, while France expressed its disapproval of Moscow's support for separatist forces by halting delivery of a warship.After speaking to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko by phone, Putin said he believed Kiev and pro-Russian separatists could reach agreement at planned talks in Minsk on Friday.A truce would provide Poroshenko with some respite to revive a crumbling economy, battered by months of street protests against a president sympathetic to Moscow and then the violence that erupted after his ouster in February, followed by Russia's annexation of Crimea and then prolonged fighting in the east.Putin is widely thought intent on ensuring Moscow at least continues to have influence in largely Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine after the conflict ends, though fears of a full-scale invasion by Russia remain in Kiev.Peskov also denied a statement by Poroshenko's office suggesting Putin had agreed a ceasefire.Despite Putin's proposals, the Defence Ministry announced plans for huge military exercises this month by the strategic rocket forces responsible for its long-range nuclear weapons, involving 4,000 troops in south-central Russia.
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