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article imageUkrainian rebels agree to three-way ceasefire talks

By Nathan Salant     Jul 4, 2014 in World
Berlin - Russia and Ukraine agreed Wednesday to hold talks with pro-Moscow rebels to try to reach an agreement on a new ceasefire to replace the one that expired earlier in the week, resulting in hundreds of deaths.
The meeting has not been scheduled yet but it is understood that the talks will begin by Saturday, according to the Reuters news service.
"It is a clear commitment to a multilateral ceasefire," Germany's Frank-Walter Steinmeier said following talks in Berlin with the foreign ministers of the Russian Federation, Ukraine and France.
Russia's Sergei Lavrov said the object of the talks was "a stable, long-term truce," Reuters said.
"We propose to achieve this through a meeting soon of the Contact Group, which – we hope – will hold a meeting in coming days and agree on the conditions for truce that would satisfy all sides," Lavrov said.
The Contact Group is made up of ministers from Ukraine, Moscow and the rebels, with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe as mediator, Reuters said.
A document signed by the four ministers committed to meeting by July 5 "with the goal of reaching an unconditional and mutually agreed sustainable ceasefire," Reuters said.
But Ukraine's Pavlo Klimkin insisted that some conditions be met before an agreement would be possible, including the release of all hostages and the installation of Kiev appointed border guards at checkpoints in the eastern half of the country.
"The de-escalation of the situation will happen when the peace plan of the Ukrainian president is respected in its totality," Klimkin said.
But Lavrov blamed Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's for calling off a self-imposed ceasefire after 10 days, resulting in a restart of hostilities.
At the start of the Berlin meeting, Russia and Ukraine blamed each other for the violence that flared up during the ceasefire and for Ukraine's resumption of its military offensive against rebels in the east.
Wednesday's agreement followed threats from Western nations to increase the scope preliminary economic sanctions imposed on Moscow after its military takeover of Ukraine's Crimea region in April.
"Regarding sanctions against Russia, we have so far reached level two and we cannot rule out having to go further," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday.
The European Union also has threatened further sanctions on the Russian economy unless Ukrainian separatists back down.
The United States believes Moscow is supporting the separatists in eastern Ukraine but Russia denies the charge.
Politics in Ukraine have been in turmoil since early this year when its then-president, Viktor Yanukovich, refused to sign a free-trade agreement with the European Union, leading to street protests that forced him to resign in February.
Russia then seized Crimea, claiming its troops were needed to protect ethnic Russians.
Poroshenko signed a new deal with the European Union on Friday, Reuters said.
More about Ukraine, Rebels, Russia, Poroshenko, Kiev
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