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Belarus Says Ukraine Talks To Be Held January 30

January 29, 2015

A new round of talks on the conflict in eastern Ukraine is due to take place on January 30 amid an escalation in fighting and mounting casualties.

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry says representatives of Ukraine, Russia, and the OSCE will meet in Minsk on January 30 for talks on the conflict.

Russian news agencies quoted ministry spokesman Dmitry Mironchik as saying that 'information on the precise venue and time' of the meeting will be released on the morning of January 30.

It was not immediately clear whether Russian-backed separatists fighting against Ukrainian governent forces would attend the meeting of the so-called contact group in the Belarusian capital.

It comes amid growing international concern over an escalation of fighting this month and statements by separatists saying they would seize more territory and not initiate peace talks.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said talks should lead to 'an immediate cease-fire and the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the line of contact' in eastern Ukraine.

The news broke as EU foreign ministers opened a meeting in Brussels on January 29 to discuss whether to extend current sanctions against Russia and approve new ones.

Earlier on January 29, Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said five Ukrainian soldiers had been killed and 29 wounded in fighting in Ukraine's eastern regions in the past 24 hours.

Lysenko also said that separatists shelled Ukrainian army positions in more than 100 separate attacks.

He said here had also been an increase in the number of Russian military instructors aiding the rebels.

Kyiv and the West says the steep increase in rebel attacks violate a cease-fire deal signed in September in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, and decrease the chances of ending a conflict that has killed more than 5,100 people since April.

Rebels have said that the terms of the Minsk agreement are no longer in force and vowed to seize more ground in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Russia denies sending troops to eastern Ukraine to aid the rebels, saying the only Russians fighting there are 'volunteers.'

But the head of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) said on January 28 Russia has deployed seven 'mobile military crematoriums' in the eastern Donetsk region to burn the bodies of Russian soldiers killed in combat there.

Valentyn Nalyvaychenko said the crematoriums are mounted on KamAZ trucks, and said each is burning eight to 10 bodies per day.

He said Ukraine had 'documented this information' but did not explain how.

Relatives of some Russian soldiers say servicemen have been pressured to fight in Ukraine, and there are reports of bodies of Russian soldiers being repatriated for urial.

The escalation of fighting in recent weeks followed unsuccessful diplomatic efforts to ensure the cease-fire is implemented and push for a resultion of the conflict.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said on January 29 that he fears the confrontation between Russia and the West over Ukraine could escalate into war.

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka expressed concern the conflict in eastern Ukraine could spill over into Belarus and Russia -- a country he said was 'involved in the crisis to an extreme degree.'

In Brussels, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, speaking after meeting NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, said EU 'ministers are ready to issue a forceful statement plus consider further robust measures.'

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linjkevicius said before the start of the meeting of EU foreign ministers, 'we will extend additional sanctions' on Russia.

However, diplomats told RFE/RL that Greek objections had blocked consensus at a preparatory meeting on January 28, which discussed a draft statement calling for the current sanctions imposed following Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula to be extended until December and for a list of new sanctions to be approved.

Ambassadors gathered again on January 29 before the foreign ministers' meeting to try to hammer out agreement, this time proposing that sanctions be extended only until September.

Greece's new leftist Syriza-led government is more sympathetic to Moscow.

Speaking on January 29 to MEPs from a delegation to the EU-Russia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee in Brussels, Russian EU Ambassador Vladimir Chizov said sanctions are 'a road to nowhere.'

With reporting by RFE/RL's Brussels correspondent Rikard Jozwiak, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, Robert Coalson, and Reuters

Source: www.rferl.org/content/minsk-talks-ukraine-russia-separatists/26820067.html

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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