Russia's foreign minister urged those holding a new round of talks Monday on easing Ukraine's crisis to push for a cease-fire between Ukrainian government troops and pro-Russian separatists.

Russia’s foreign minister urged those holding a new round of talks Monday on easing Ukraine’s crisis to push for a cease-fire between Ukrainian government troops and pro-Russian separatists.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also said Russia would not intervene militarily in Ukraine, defying reports by the Ukrainian government, NATO and Western nations that Russia has already sent troops, artillery and tanks across Ukraine’s southeast border to reinforce the separatists.

“There will be no military intervention,” Lavrov told students at Moscow State Institute of International Relations on Monday, the first day of classes for schools and universities across the country. “We call for an exclusively peaceful settlement of this severe crisis, this tragedy.”

He said the priority of the so-called contact group at the talks in Minsk, the Belarusian capital, should be reaching agreement on an immediate, unconditional cease-fire.

The group, which last met in late July, includes representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. A separatist leader, Andrei Purgin, also was to take part.

Purgin told the Interfax news agency that the separatists’ priority was to win recognition of their independence in eastern Ukraine, which has a large Russian-speaking population. He said they also were willing to discuss the exchange of prisoners and a temporary cease-fire.

Fighting in eastern Ukraine between the separatists and the Ukrainian government in Kiev began in mid-April, a month after Russia annexed Ukraine’s southern peninsula of Crimea.