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article imageUkraine and Russia plan meeting over continuing conflict

By Nathan Salant     Feb 8, 2015 in World
Donetsk - Diplomats from Russia and Ukraine will meet Wednesday in an effort to resolve their bloody dispute over the future of the former Soviet republic.
Negotiators from Germany and France are expected to join the talks planned in Minsk, capital of Belarus, a breakaway former Soviet republic that has maintained close ties with Moscow.
The announcement of the talks comes the day after shelling killed eight civilians in Donetsk, capital of territory captured by Ukrainian rebels following the Russian Federation's seizure of the Crimean Peninsula early last year, according to Cable News Network (CNN).
Western nations accuse Moscow of supplying soldiers and arms to help the rebels battle to overthrow Ukraine's elected government to forge a closer union with Russia, an accusation Russia explicitly denies.
Ukraine's elected pro-Russian government was forced from power in 2014.
The eight civilian deaths brought to 224 the number of noncombatants killed since January, a United Nations official told CNN.
Negotiations apparently will begin Sunday, when Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian Prime Minister Petro Poroshenko are scheduled to join German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande on a conference call regarding a failed ceasefire they agreed to last September.
Western leaders have expressed reservations about supplying weapons to Ukraine's military, as advocated by the United States.
"The progress that Ukraine needs cannot be achieved with more weapons," Merkel told CNN.
"I have grave doubts about the validity of this point," she said.
But U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that the United States and Europe were united in opposition to Russian moves in Ukraine and threatened further economic sanctions if the situation did not improve soon.
"The longer that it takes, the more the off-ramps are avoided, the more we will be forced to raise the costs on Russia and its proxies," Kerry said.
Ukraine has been independent since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
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