Ukraine Peace Talks Dropped as Civilians Die
by VOA News January 30, 2015
At least 12 civilians on both sides of the eastern Ukraine conflict were killed Friday as a new round of peace talks between Kyiv and pro-Russia separatists failed to materialize after a cease-fire ruptured early in the year.
The city administration in rebel-controlled Donetsk reported that five people were killed by shell fire as they were waiting for humanitarian aid outside a cultural center, while another two people died when shelling hit a trolley elsewhere in the city.
City officials blamed the attacks on Ukrainian government forces. The Ukrainian government's National Security and Defense Council blamed the shelling outside the cultural center on the rebels, and also put the death toll at seven.
Ukrainian authorities also reported that another five civilians were killed Friday by rebel shelling in the town of Debaltseve, a strategic rail junction connecting the regional centers of the separatist-held provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk. It has been the scene of intense fighting this week.
Ukraine's military on Friday also said five of its servicemen were killed and 23 wounded over the previous 24 hours.
Peace talks fail to materialize
Meanwhile, peace talks that were set to take place Friday in Minsk failed to materialize. Two separatist delegates who had come to the Belarussian capital announced that the talks were off and that they were flying back to Moscow.
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko had called for the new round of talks in response to the recent upsurge in fighting in eastern Ukraine. Last week, the rebels announced they were launching a new offensive and no longer recognized the cease-fire agreement signed last September.
That cease-fire has been violated repeatedly, with each side blaming the other for breaches.
Russia complains of EU bias
On Friday, Russia's foreign ministry accused the European Union of bias, a day after EU foreign ministers agreed to extend by six months existing sanctions imposed on Russian and Russian-backed separatist officials for their role in the conflict.
During a meeting in Brussels, the ministers also agreed to come up with more names to add to a list of people subject to an asset freeze and travel ban.
'The one-sided reading by Brussels of what is happening in the conflict inside Ukraine deprives it of the right to act as an 'impartial broker,' the Russian ministry said, according to French news agency AFP.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP.
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