Progress in ‘difficult’ Ukraine talks, says Germany

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German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said four-way talks on the crisis in eastern Ukraine had been difficult, but they had made progress.

He spoke after meeting with his Ukrainian, Russian and French counterparts in Berlin on Sunday.

Discussions focused on how to alleviate the humanitarian crisis and bring about a ceasefire in the east, he added.

Ukraine’s military has intensified its operation to expel rebels from two key eastern strongholds in recent weeks.

In the latest development, Ukraine said its forces had advanced into the rebel-held city of Luhansk for the first time in months on Sunday.

The national flag was raised over a police station which had for months been under rebel control, Ukrainian Security Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko said.

The military also acknowledged that a Ukrainian fighter jet had been shot down by rebels near the city, adding that the pilot had managed to parachute to safety.

Prevention

The German foreign minister said he and his European counterparts would report back to their leaders and possibly agree on how to continue talks on Monday or Tuesday.

“The aim remains to bring about a ceasefire in Ukraine and to prevent future victims,” Mr Steinmeier told reporters on Sunday evening.

“It was a difficult discussion but I believe and I hope that we made progress on some points,” he added.

More than 2,000 civilians and combatants have been killed since mid-April, when Ukraine’s government sent troops to put down an uprising by pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Meanwhile, a Russian convoy of lorries carrying 2,000 tonnes of aid to eastern Ukraine was reported to have reached a border post controlled by pro-Russia separatists on Sunday.

But the lorries are unlikely to cross into Ukraine because the Red Cross, which is overseeing the delivery, said it still required the necessary security guarantees for the convoy to continue.

There may be further complications as Kiev has insisted any aid sent from Russia should cross a government-controlled part of the border.

There had been fears expressed by Ukraine and by Western governments that the convoy could be carrying arms for the rebels or could be used as a pretext by Russia for military action.

Russia has denied any military involvement with the convoy.

In other developments:

  • Rebel sources say 10 civilians had been killed in the city of Donetsk over the past 24 hours as government forces continue an offensive
  • Mr Lysenko says a convoy of rocket launchers has been seen crossing from Russia into Ukraine, days after two Western journalists reported seeing military hardware entering from Russia. Russia has denied sending any weapons
  • Leader of the ultra-nationalist Right Sector Dmytro Yarosh threatened to withdraw volunteers fighting on the government side if his demands were not met within 48 hours

 

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