President Vladimir Putin says Ukraine should offer broad rights to its eastern rebel regions in order to end the conflict that has strained Russia-West ties.

Putin, speaking Friday at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, said such decentralization is a key part of the February peace agreement signed in Minsk.

Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of breaking the Minsk deal by continuing to support the separatists with troops and weapons. Moscow denies this.

Commenting on the accusations, Putin said the rebels were simply defending themselves against the Ukrainian military. He added "once an attempt is made to solve the problem by political means, those weapons will be gone."

He said Ukraine must give amnesty to the rebels and hold regional elections in the east per the Minsk deal.