Putin Under Pressure As Fighting Rages In Ukraine

President Vladimir Putin has been slammed for arming rebels and fanning flames of separatism in eastern Ukraine. But there is strong evidence recently that it's just the opposite: He now wants to bring about a truce.

To do so, however, Putin must face down nationalists at home pressuring him to send in troops to support the rebels occupying town halls and border posts and fighting government forces in eastern Ukraine after the new Ukrainian president ended a mainly one-sided cease-fire.

Putin's strategic aims have not changed: He wants to keep Ukraine at least partly in Russia's orbit and prevent it from joining NATO.

But he is also mindful of Russia's other global relationships, and he needs to move carefully to avoid more sanctions from the European Union and the United States.

The Russian leader scored a measure of success last month when the new Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, declared a cease-fire that some rebels accepted. While the truce was frequently broken and failed to persuade the rebels to disarm, it set the stage for consultations involving a former Ukrainian president, the Russian ambassador, European officials and insurgent leaders.

The two rounds of peace talks didn't produce any visible results, and Poroshenko canceled the truce on Monday evening. But they brought together the warring parties for the first time, an important success for Putin. The Kiev government had previously resisted his calls to sit down with the rebels, whom they brand as "terrorists."