Latest round of Ukraine peace talks fall through
Iran Press TV
Sat Jan 31, 2015 9:6PM
The latest round of peace talks on Ukraine have collapsed just hours after it began, as pro-Russia and Kiev envoys trade blame for sabotaging the meeting.
Ukraine's representative, former president Leonid Kuchma, left Saturday's talks in Minsk, Belarus, and told reporters that pro-Russia officials had destabilized the talks by making ultimatums and refusing, 'to discuss a plan of measures for a quick ceasefire and a pull-back of heavy weapons."
A representative of the pro-Russian forces, Denis Pushilin, told reporters they were prepared for negotiations, "but not ready for ultimatums from Kiev while shelling by their forces is going on in the background of towns in the Donbass (industrialized eastern Ukraine)'.
The meeting by the Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine -- which is comprised of representatives from Ukraine, Russia, and pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe -- was held as clashes between Ukraine government forces and the pro-Russia fighters in Ukraine's war-torn east are still claiming more civilian lives.
On September 5, the Contact Group -- held talks in Minsk, which led to Kiev and pro-Russia fighters agreeing on a 12-point peace plan, known as the Minsk Protocol.
However, the truce has been violated almost daily by both the Ukrainian military and pro-Russia forces.
On Friday, another round of talks in Minsk was cancelled following Kiev's refusal to attend the meeting.
"The Foreign Ministry of Belarus confirmed today that Kiev (representatives) won't come. The talks have been cancelled," Pushilin, told reporters in the Belarusian capital.
Bodies pile up
On Saturday, Ukraine's Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak said, 'In the last day, 15 soldiers died and 30 more were wounded. That is the figure for the whole frontline,'
Reports said civilian casualties have also risen as heavy fighting in eastern Ukraine rages on.
On Friday, in Ukraine's volatile eastern region of Donetsk, five people were killed by artillery fire as they were queuing up outside a cultural center to receive humanitarian aid, and a sixth person was killed about a kilometer away after a trolley bus was hit.
Also in the town of Debaltseve, east of Donetsk, seven more civilians were killed on Friday as their homes were shelled, said regional police chief Vyacheslav Abroskin.
The two mainly Russian-speaking regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in eastern Ukraine have been the scene of deadly clashes between pro-Russia forces and the Ukrainian army since Kiev's military operation started in April 2014, in a bid to crush the protests.
Violence intensified in May 2014, after the two flashpoint regions held local referendums in which their residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence from Ukraine and joining the Russian Federation.
The fighting has left more than 5,100 people killed and over 1.5 million displaced, the United Nations says.
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