Russia's President Putin meets Ukraine President Poroshenko, EU leaders in Milan

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (middle) gestures as she arrives for a meeting on Ukraine's crisis with Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko (right), Russia's President Vladimir Putin (left) and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (2nd left) on Oct 1
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (middle) gestures as she arrives for a meeting on Ukraine's crisis with Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko (right), Russia's President Vladimir Putin (left) and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (2nd left) on Oct 17, 2014 on the sidelines of the 10th ASEM summit in Milan, Italy. -- PHOTO: AFP

MILAN (AFP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin met his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko in Milan on Friday in the latest attempt to ease tensions over the simmering conflict in eastern Ukraine.

European Union leaders also attended the breakfast meeting at the Milan prefecture building, held amid very sharp differences with Moscow over implementation of a ceasefire and peace accord agreed last month between Kiev and pro-Russian rebels.

Talks between Mr Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel that continued into the early hours of Friday morning were said by the Kremlin to have exposed major differences over the roots of the conflict.

"There are still serious differences concerning the origin of Ukraine's internal conflict, as well as the root causes of what is currently happening," Russian news agencies quoted Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying.

A ceasefire, reached on Sept 5 in Minsk, has repeatedly been violated by both sides.

The EU leaders were also expected to confront Mr Putin over his warnings that gas supplies to western Europe could be disrupted this winter if Russia cuts deliveries to Ukraine, as it has threatened to do if there is no agreement with Kiev over payment.