MOSCOW/LONDON, Sept. 5 (Xinhua) -- Western powers are intensifying pressure on Russia over the Ukraine crisis ahead of scheduled talks in Minsk on Friday, which are expected to pave the way for a political solution to the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine.
A ceasefire with the insurgents will be ordered if an agreement on a peace plan to end the war in eastern Ukraine is signed at the Minsk talks, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Thursday.
Before the talks, NATO leaders, at a summit in Wales on Thursday, demanded that Russia withdraw its troops from Ukraine, and pledged to help Ukraine's military efforts against independence-seeking armed militia groups in eastern Ukraine, including supports in logistics, rehabilitation for injured troops, cyber defense, and command and control.
"Ukraine has stood by NATO. Now in these difficult times, NATO stands by Ukraine," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at talks between NATO leaders and Poroshenko.
NATO leaders are also expected to announce fresh sanctions against Russia on Friday over its actions in Ukraine, despite hopes that a ceasefire could be agreed at the talks in Minsk.
On Thursday, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel praised the actions of the Ukrainian armed forces in their current engagements in eastern Ukraine and pledged continued U.S. support for their efforts.
Faced with mounting pressure from the West, Russia has pledged to de-escalate the Ukraine crisis and proposed a seven-point peace settlement plan, which includes an end to active offensive operations by government forces and armed militia groups in the Donetsk and Lugansk areas.
Valentina Matviyenko, chairwoman of the upper house of the Russian parliament, described the plan as "balanced," saying "it does not give unilateral advantages to any party."
In a meeting with Ilkka Kanerva, president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Matviyenko reiterated that Russia hopes to cooperate with the OSCE on the settlement of the Ukraine crisis.
"We seek to maintain close cooperation with the OSCE and we are open for reciprocal interaction," she said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday that Moscow is ready to take practical steps toward de-escalation of the conflict in Ukraine in line with the plan proposed by Putin.
He also accused Brussels and Washington of "insincerity," noting that it seemed that none of the countries that signed documents with Russia, like the Geneva statement of April 17, was interested in implementing those agreements.