MINSK, Belarus — Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks Tuesday with the president of Ukraine, extending a reluctant hand to a leader vilified in Russia's state-run news media.
Just hours earlier, Ukraine released videos of captured Russian soldiers that directly challenged Putin's long-standing claim that his country has nothing to do with the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The videos, which featured men dressed in camouflage who identified themselves as members of a Russian airborne division who had been sent into Ukraine in unmarked vehicles, put new pressure on Putin to acknowledge and halt what Ukraine and its Western supporters say is an accelerating flow of military personnel and hardware into the country's east.
Despite this, Putin continued to cast himself as a bystander to the conflict, saying after he met with Ukraine's president, Petro Poroshenko, that the rebellion was an internal matter whose solution depended on the Ukrainian government's arranging a cease-fire.
In his opening remarks at a meeting of a Moscow-led economic bloc in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, which was also attended by officials from the European Union, Putin barely mentioned the war in Ukraine.