Russian President Vladimir Putin said talks on ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine must discuss statehood for the region.
In an interview to Russia's TV Channel One aired on August 31 Putin said: "We need to immediately begin substantive talks…on questions of the political organization of society and statehood for southeastern Ukraine with the goal of protecting the lawful interests of the people who live there."
Putin also said that Moscow could not stand aside "when people are being shot at almost at point blank" in Ukraine.
The West accuses Russia of supporting pro-Moscow separatist rebels who are fighting Ukrainian government forces.
Moscow denies the accusations.
The European Union has threatened Russia with new trade sanctions if Moscow fails to start reversing its action in Ukraine.