Hollande, Merkel, Putin back ceasefire plan for eastern Ukraine

PARIS (REUTERS) - France, Germany and Russia back plans for a complete ceasefire in eastern Ukraine from Sept 1, the French presidency said after their respective leaders spoke by telephone on Saturday.

Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists, in a gesture to shore up a tenuous ceasefire, agreed on Aug 26 to strive for an end to all truce violations from next Tuesday, the OSCE and rebel representatives have said.

In a statement, French President Francois Hollande's office said he also agreed with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin that it would be useful to hold a summit with Ukraine's Petro Poroshenko in the coming weeks.

"They strongly backed the call for a complete ceasefire from Sept 1," Hollande's office said.

"They underlined that the respect of a lasting ceasefire was a necessity given the situation of civilians in eastern Ukraine."

The two sides agreed in February to a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine parallel to a political process, including plans for local elections and establishment of a special self-management status for separatist-minded regions.

But sporadic clashes between the two forces, in which artillery and other weapons have been used and civilians, Ukrainian soldiers and separatists have been killed, have since undermined the February deal.

Both sides have blamed the other for the violations.