KIEV, Ukraine, Aug. 19 (UPI) -- The Ukrainian government announced Tuesday President Petro Poroshenko will meet with his counterpart, Russian President Vladimir Putin, next week in Minsk, Belarus.
News of the summit conference comes as Ukrainian troops are advancing on rebel-held territory in the eastern part of the country and pro-separatist stronghold cities of Luhansk and Donetsk are surrounded and lacking food, clean water and electrical power. A convoy of over 260 trucks -- ostensibly filled with humanitarian aid but many of them empty upon inspection -- await an opportunity to cross the border from Russia to Ukraine.
"I come with positive news. I think we have a chance to switch to a real road map towards a peaceful process," Valery Chaly, the deputy head of Ukraine's presidential administration, said in Kiev at a news conference. He added the two presidents, who will meet Tuesday, could bring an end to a rebellion that has included denials of Russian involvement, establishment of a pseudo-republic and the downing of a commercial airliner.
"We all realize that these issues can only be solved at the highest level, at the level of president, especially in the case of Russia," Chaly said.
While preparations for diplomacy began, Arsen Avakov, the Ukrainian Interior Minister, said the army entered the town of Ilovaysk, 11 miles east of Donetsk. Officials also reported heavy fighting in the streets of Luhansk, as well as the recovery of 15 bodies from a refugee convoy bombed Monday as it traveled from the city, although the rebels deny an assault on the convoy.