Russian and Ukrainian diplomats have started peace talks with representatives of separatist insurgents in Ukraine, Russian media reports.
Former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma led a Ukrainian diplomatic team to meet the Russian ambassador to Kiev and pro-Russian rebel leaders in Donetsk, the biggest city in the restive East, Interfax news agency reported.
Kuchma, who served as president from 1994 to 2005 and comes from the east of Ukraine, was asked to informally represent Kiev by current Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
Poroshenko said he would not directly engage in talks with rebels, whom the government considers as "terrorists".
Kuchma's mediation offered Kiev a way to negotiate with all parties without the government's formal engagement.
The 75-year-old was accompanied by his ex-chief of staff, Viktor Medvedchuk, who reportedly has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
European officials are also reported to have joined the talks.
The move comes as pro-Russian rebels in the region agreed to respect a ceasefire proposed by Poroshenko last week.
The leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic said its troops are not to engage in fighting against government forces until Friday at 10am local time.
"We hope that during ceasefire from both sides we will be able to reach an agreement and start consultations on the process of peaceful settlement of the conflict," Aleksandr Boroday told Rossiya 24 TV.
Last week Poroshenko announced it was his intention to call a ceasefire to allow pro-Russian insurgents to lay down their arms as part of a 14-point peace plan.
The plan included a promise to decentralise power from Kiev and to hold early local and parliamentary elections.
The creation of a 10km (6.25 mile) buffer zone on the border with Russia aimed at preventing men and weapons from crossing from Russia into Ukraine, was also considered.
Kiev and the West have long accused Moscow of actively supporting the separatist rebels.
Earlier today several European foreign ministers threatened to impose further sanctions against Russia if it failed to cooperate with the plan.
"We look to Russia to take actual action to stop the flow of arms over the border into eastern Ukraine, to encourage illegal armed groups to stop what they are doing there now," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said.