Vladimir Putin has denied any Russian involvement in the unrest in eastern Ukraine.
Speaking during a televised phone-in on Russian television, the President said there were "no special forces, no instructors" from Russia in eastern Ukraine and that those taking up arms were "all local people".
He also called for "dialogue" between pro-Russian elements in the east of the country and the authorities in Kiev.
Mr Putin also struck a conciliatory tone, saying that Russia and Ukraine "share an enormous number of interests and if we want to be successful we must work together".
Tensions remain high in eastern Ukraine after at least three died in a day of shooting during what was supposed to be an Easter truce.
In an exclusive interview with NBC News, the Ukrainian Prime Minister warns of the dangers of unchecked Russian expansion and aggression.
Russia, the US and the EU say that all sides have agreed to steps to "de-escalate" the crisis in Ukraine at talks in Geneva.