Residents of Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine, flee into their basements, to escape the artillery shelling above.
Donetsk, Ukraine
© Reuters/Scanpix

Donetsk is a stronghold of pro-Russian separatists and their battles with nearby government forces are said to be raging.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has proposed a seven-step roadmap for ending the violence.

Among other things, it calls for rebels to halt their operations, Ukrainian forces to pull back from their positions and an end to government airstrikes.

Putin outlined the plan while visiting Mongolia: "I very much count on Ukrainian leadership supporting this emergent progress in bilateral relations and using the positive work of the contact group to achieve a final and comprehensive resolution of the situation in southeastern Ukraine."

Peace talks in Minsk are scheduled for Friday.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko says he's hopeful the talks can lead to a peace plan and he's urging politicians to support negotiations.

"Listen, how can anyone be against peace? How can anyone reject the fact that people must stop dying? How can we stop these awful events today?" President Poroshenko says.

But Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk calls Putin's 7-point proposal "deception".

Meanwhile, earlier proposals of a possible ceasefire had no immediate impact on the ground.

And rebel leaders have little faith that government forces will observe any truce.

Talks in Minsk offer a glimmer of hope, but no guarantee that residents of eastern Ukraine can emerge from the darkness of war any time soon.

Reuters
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