Ukraine rebels say truce talks have collapsed

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DONETSK, Ukraine — The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany called Wednesday for extending the truce between government and rebel troops in eastern Ukraine, even as separatist leaders said the peace process had collapsed.

Faced with the threat of additional economic sanctions from Washington, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin discussed an extension of the cease-fire, which is to expire Friday, in a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Ukraine’s new president, Petro Poroshenko. Mr. Putin said Russia had made a commitment to ease the conflict by revoking an order that provided for use of the Russian army in Ukraine.

Surprise talks Monday between separatist leaders and Ukrainian and Russian government representatives, as well as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, offered the first hope for a settlement in the conflict, which has left more than 420 people dead since mid-April, according to the United Nations. Yet Tuesday, one day after the cease-fire was declared, rebel forces in the city of Slovyansk shot down a Ukrainian army helicopter with a surface-to-air missile, killing nine servicemen.

Alexander Borodai, a separatist leader from Russia, said fighting had resumed almost immediately after the temporary truce was announced Monday. “There was no peace, and the cease-fire is not being observed,” said Mr. Borodai, the prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, adding that the agreement was violated first by government troops.

No further talks with Kiev were planned, Mr. Borodai said. “I don’t see the possibility for us to continue the discussion,” he said, adding that the negotiators’ achievements “had no practical meaning.”

Mr. Borodai also confirmed that the rebels had acquired heavier arms and artillery, including tanks and howitzers, which he said had been captured from the Ukrainian military. He did not say how many tanks the rebels had. Ukraine and the United States have accused Russia of arming the rebel forces.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry began a news conference Wednesday at NATO headquarters in Brussels by calling for Mr. Putin “to stop the flow of weapons and fighters across the border.” He said the missile launcher that brought down the helicopter Tuesday was Russian-made and urged Mr. Putin to call for separatist forces to lay down their arms. A senior administration official said Friday that several tanks in rebel possession came from Russia.

The Obama administration has drawn up plans to escalate sanctions against Russia if it does not back the current peace plan by halting the flow of arms and fighters across the Russian border. The sanctions could target some of Russia’s largest banks or energy and defense firms.

Russia - Eastern Europe - Europe - Western Europe - John Kerry - Germany - Ukraine - Vladimir Putin - Russia government - Angela Merkel - Ukraine government - Russian armed forces - Donetsk - Petro Poroshenko


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