DONETSK, Ukraine — Pro-Russian separatists declared a cease-fire Monday in a surprise move that they said they hoped would lead to a settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The announcement came as rebel leaders met with representatives of the Ukrainian government in Kiev, including the former President Leonid Kuchma, the Russian ambassador to Ukraine and a representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
"In answer to the cease-fire by Kiev, we commit to a cease-fire from our side," said Alexander Borodai, prime minister of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic.
Borodai, a Russian citizen, said the cease-fire would last until Friday, matching the timeline of the cease-fire announced last week by Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine's new president.
Poroshenko declared a unilateral cease-fire Friday by government troops clashing with rebels in the country's embattled east and unveiled a peace plan to bring an end to the conflict.
The plan proposed amnesty for rebel fighters who had not committed serious crimes, as well as safe passage for those who wanted to return to Russia. It also called for decentralization of the national government, a move that would allow for greater self-rule in the east, though the details of that plan are not yet final.
Russian President Vladimir Putin gave cautious support to the peace plan but said it must lead to talks between both sides. At the same time, the United States said it had evidence that Russia was preparing to send more tanks and artillery to the fighters.
President Barack Obama spoke with Putin by telephone Monday, their first known conversation since speaking at the D-day anniversary commemoration in France this month. The White House said Obama pressed Putin to aid Poroshenko's efforts to defuse the crisis.
With tentative support from Russia and Ukraine's Western allies, the cease-fire provides an opportunity for the two sides to forge a more lasting agreement for the first time since gunmen seized cities throughout eastern Ukraine more than two months ago.