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Ukrainian, Russian leaders agree to work on ceasefire

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June 6, 2014 - FILE photo of Ukraine president Petro Poroshenko (center), German Chancellor Angela Merkel , and Russian President Vladimir Putin (right.) after a group photo for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings at Benouville Castle, France.Reuters

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko came to an agreement with Russia to work on the adoption of a cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels in the country's embattled east.

The pact also covers the establishment of effective controls on Ukraine’s border with Russia, French President Francois Hollande’s office said in a statement Monday.  

The statement followed a phone conversation between Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Poroshenko.

French officials said Monday's phone call touched on establishing a full cease-fire by both sides, having international monitors on the border between Russia and Ukraine, freeing prisoners, and holding substantial talks with Ukraine's separatist rebels.

Poroshenko had already extended the cease-fire from seven days to 10, while pressing for specific conditions to move forward with a peace plan to end the conflict that has left more than 400 people dead in recent months.

The cease-fire has been continuously broken, and rebels have not laid down their weapons, despite Poroshenko’s demands.

During Monday’s phone call, Poroshenko said the conditions, agreed in a four-way talk a day earlier, "haven't been fulfilled," but the statement released by his office didn't say whether the cease-fire would be extended. It was set to expire at 10 p.m. local time (3 p.m. EDT).

European leaders have pressed Russia to help de-escalate the situation or face the possibility of additional economic sanctions. Conditions included a demand that the separatists hand back three checkpoints on the border with Russia that they have seized.

Rebel leader Alexander Borodai welcomed having observers monitor the situation anywhere in the region but rejected the demand to hand back the border checkpoints Monday. Rebels have previously kidnapped several teams of monitors.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Putin suggested to Poroshenko that both Ukrainian monitors and observers from the Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe deploy to checkpoints on the Russian side of the border to ensure "they aren't used for illegal means."

"We expect that direct and detailed consultations between Russian and Ukrainian border guards will start shortly to agree on details of the monitors' presence," Lavrov said in televised remarks.

Poroshenko, Putin, Merkel and Hollande also spoke for two hours Sunday as Poroshenko pushed to get his peace plan past a wobbly start. Ukraine says rebels continue to attack, and protesters gathered near Poroshenko's office Sunday in Kiev demanding military action against them.

Poroshenko has said the unilateral cease-fire is a first step to give insurgents a chance to lay down their arms. Further steps would include an amnesty for separatists who have not committed serious crimes, early local elections, and changes in the constitution to decentralize power to the regions.

A Kremlin statement said foreign ministers from the four countries would quickly continue the four-way talks to discuss the issues by the leaders -- a distinct cold shoulder to further efforts from the United States or the full European Union to be involved in Ukraine's crisis.

“There is good rhetoric. There are some good words about a ceasefire and peace but what we see is continued conflict, continued support of the conflict from the east side of the border. And until we see those things turned around I think we need to watch with a wary eye,”  Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe told reporters in Washington Monday.  

Meanwhile,  sporadic fighting still flared Monday despite the cease-fire. Shelling killed at least two people and ruined several apartments in the rebel-held city of Slovyansk in the eastern region of Donetsk.

Poroshenko says his unilateral cease-fire is a first step to give rebels a chance to lay down their arms. Further steps would include an amnesty for separatists who have not committed serious crimes, early local elections and changes in the constitution to decentralize power to Ukraine's regions.

But in Slovyansk, shooting kept up through the night, growing heavy at times Monday morning.  Some of the shelling appeared to be directed at rebel front-line positions but other shells landed in a residential neighborhood, destroying or damaging several buildings.

One woman, 62-year-old Vera Sayenko, died when a shell hit her ninth floor apartment, neighbors told an AP journalist, as well as another woman during shelling.

"Everything we have collected in our life is destroyed. We have become poor," said Valery, whose apartment was also destroyed. He would not give his last name. "Show all Ukrainians what happened here. What else do they want, to ruin the town and kill people?"

The conflict in eastern Ukraine began after a protest movement among those seeking closer ties with the EU prompted President Viktor Yanukovych to flee in February. Calling it an illegal coup, Russia seized and annexed Ukraine's Crimea region in March, saying it was protecting Russian speakers. The insurrection in the east began shortly afterward.

Ukraine signed a trade and political deal with the EU last week, the one that Yanukovych had rejected.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.