Kiev: Kazakhstan, one of the principal allies of Russia, on Monday, renewed its military cooperation with Ukraine, to which it also promised vital supplies of coal.
This comes after a visit to the Ukrainian capital Kiev, the day before by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and may signal a shift in the stance of major Russian allies to distance themselves from Russian President Vladimir Putin and support Ukraine.
"We will fully renew our military cooperation," Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said after meeting his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbayev, in Kiev.
Poroshenko said that it was not a case of Ukraine importing arms to combat pro-Russian separatists, but would rather help the central Asian republic of Kazakhstan strengthen its national defence.
In exchange, Nazarbayev announced an agreement to export coal to Ukraine, which faces serious supply problems since most of its own coal mines are under the control of pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
Furthermore, Nazarbayev expressed his willingness to mediate in the conflict in eastern Ukraine and said that the path of confrontation "is a road to nowhere".
"I ask Russia and Ukraine to think about finding a compromise to end the crisis and to maintain Ukraine's territorial integrity, since the situation in Donbass (eastern Ukraine) is senseless," he said.
He added that Ukraine could and should restore trade relations with Russia, "its main partner," but noted that "Ukraine is close to Europe," and so the signing of a Pact of Association with the European Union (EU) "is perfectly understandable," which in fact, is the exact opposite of Russia's view.
Immediately afterwards, Russia announced that President Putin would discuss the proposal for pacification of Ukraine, with the Kazakh leader.
Ever since the Ukrainian crisis broke out, Nazarbayev has defended the territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine and, despite Russia's annexation of Crimea and the independence movement of pro-Russian rebels, has criticised separatism.
That was also the position of Lukashenko, who Sunday visited Kiev, where he told Poroshenko of his intention to reinforce cooperation in all fields and called for the quickest possible renewal of negotiations, in the Belarusian capital Minsk, with the pro-Russian separatists.
Both Kazakhs and Belarusians have always kept their distance from Russia's active interference in Ukraine, which has cost Moscow heavy international economic sanctions.
"Nazarbayev offers to mediate. Lukashenko is already a mediator, since he offered his country's territory for the negotiations...these countries want to distance themselves from Russia in favour of neutrality," Russian political scientist Alexei Makarkin was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.