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Ukraine's leader talks with Putin, Merkel on peace

June 30, 2014
Associated Press

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine's president has spoken with his counterparts from Russia, Germany and France to see how best to resolve the deadly conflict with pro-Russian separatists in the east.

The telephone call Monday between President Petro Poroshenko, Russia's Vladimir Putin, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and France's Francois Hollande took place as an expiration deadline neared for Ukraine's shaky, unilateral cease-fire that started 10 days ago.

French officials said the talks touched on establishing a full cease-fire by both sides, international monitoring of the border between Russia and Ukraine, freeing prisoners and holding substantial talks with Ukraine's separatist rebels.

A Kremlin statement said foreign ministers from the four countries would carry the four-way talks.

The cease-fire has been continuously broken, however, and rebels have not laid down their weapons as Poroshenko demanded.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Ukraine's president faced a decision Monday on whether to extend a shaky cease-fire with pro-Russia rebels in the country's east, as European leaders pressed Russia to help de-escalate the simmering conflict.

President Petro Poroshenko has already extended the cease-fire from seven days to 10 as part of a peace plan to end the conflict that has killed more than 400 people. National security spokesman Andriy Lysenko said the presidential decision would come before the cease-fire expires at 10 p.m. (1900 GMT, 3 p.m. EDT).

Sporadic fighting still flared Monday despite the cease-fire. Shelling killed at least two people and ruined several apartments in the rebel-held city of Slovyansk in the eastern separatist region of Donetsk.

Poroshenko has demanded that rebels return posts along the Russia border to Ukrainian control and allow international monitors to verify the cease-fire. Rebels in the past have kidnapped several teams of monitors.

European leaders have pressed Russia to help de-escalate the situation or face the possibility of additional economic sanctions. A four-way phone call was to take place Monday among Poroshenko, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande.

The four also spoke for two hours Sunday as Poroshenko struggled to get his peace plan past a wobbly start. Ukraine says the rebels are still attacking and locals protested near Poroshenko's office in Kiev on Sunday, demanding military action against the separatists.

Poroshenko says his unilateral cease-fire is a first step to give rebels a chance to lay down their arms. Further steps would include an amnesty for separatists who have not committed serious crimes, early local elections and changes in the constitution to decentralize power to Ukraine's regions.

In Slovyansk, shooting kept up through the night and into Monday morning. Residents saying the army appeared to start shelling after rebels opened fire. Heavy shelling was heard throughout the town from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m.

Some of the shelling appeared to be directed at rebel front-line positions outside the city while other shells landed in a residential neighborhood, destroying or damaging several buildings.

One woman, 62-year-old Vera Sayenko, died when a shell hit her ninth floor apartment, neighbors told an AP journalist.

"Everything we have collected in our life is destroyed. We have become poor," said Valery, whose apartment was also destroyed. He would not give his last name. "Show all Ukrainians what happened here. What else do they want, to ruin the town and kill people?"

Ukrainian police and prosecutors were investigating the death of a cameraman working for Russia's Channel One. Anatoly Klyan, 68, was fatally wounded when a bus carrying journalists and soldiers' mothers was hit by gunfire.

Channel One said its crew was traveling late Sunday to a Ukrainian military base with the mothers of conscripts hoping to bring their sons home when their bus came under attack near Avdiivka, a village north of the city of Donetsk. Channel One said the trip was organized by the rebels and that the bus, whose driver was wearing camouflage, came under fire as it approached the military base in the dark.

Russia's Foreign Ministry blamed the attack on Ukrainian soldiers and demanded an objective investigation. Klan was the fifth journalist to die since the fighting began in April.

___

Szlanko reported from Slovyansk, Ukraine.

 
 

 

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