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ukraine peace plan


Vladimir Putin is to discuss a peace plan for east Ukraine with French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ukrainian leaders by phone.

Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande are pushing a plan to end bloody fighting between government and rebel forces.

Meeting the Russian president in Moscow on February 6, they agreed to four-way talks with Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko on February 8.

More than 5,000 people have been killed in the east since April.

Thousands more have been injured and more than a million have fled their homes.

Ukraine’s military reported continued shelling on February 7, accusing the rebels of preparing new offensives, while the rebels accused the government itself of attacking along the line dividing their forces.

Petro Poroshenko has called on the West for support up to and including weapons.Ukraine peace plan Vladimir Putin, Francois Hollande, Angela Merkel and Petro Poroshenko

He made the plea at a security conference in Munich on February 7, when he brandished passports that he said were those of Russian troops in Ukraine.

Russia denies intervening directly in eastern Ukraine.

Angela Merkel told the conference in Munich that there was no guarantee diplomacy would succeed but it was “definitely worth trying”.

The plan is thought to be an attempt to revive a failed ceasefire deal signed in Minsk, in Belarus, in September. Since then, the rebels have seized more ground, raising alarm in Kiev and among Ukraine’s backers.

Francois Hollande said it would include a demilitarized zone of 31-44 miles around the current front line.

The French leader has described the Franco-German plan as “one of the last chances” to end the conflict.

“If we fail to find a lasting peace agreement, we know the scenario perfectly well – it has a name, it is called war,” Francois Hollande said.

The US is said to be considering pleas to send weapons to Ukraine.

Angela Merkel, however, said she could not “imagine any situation in which improved equipment for the Ukrainian army leads to President Putin being so impressed that he believes he will lose militarily”.

The statement put Angela Merkel in opposition to NATO’s top military commander, US Air Force general Philip Breedlove, who told reporters that Western allies should not “preclude out of hand the possibility of the military option”.

Vice-President Joe Biden said the US would “continue to provide Ukraine with security assistance not to encourage war, but to allow Ukraine to defend itself”.

“Let me be clear – we do not believe there is a military solution in Ukraine,” Joe Biden said.

“But let me be equally clear – we do not believe Russia has the right to do what they’re doing.”

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Kiev and pro-Russia rebels have agreed a memorandum on a peace plan for the conflict in east Ukraine.

The nine-point deal includes setting up a 19-mile buffer zone, a ban on overflights of part of eastern Ukraine by military aircraft and the withdrawal of “foreign mercenaries” on both sides.

The agreement was announced at talks in the Belarusian capital Minsk, where a ceasefire was agreed on September 5.

More than 3,000 have died in fighting in two eastern regions since April.

The original cease-fire has been frequently violated but is still holding.

Ukraine accuses Russia of arming separatists and sending Russian troops to the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The Kremlin denies it has any role there.

In a separate development on Saturday, a humanitarian convoy of about 200 trucks from Russia has arrived in the city of Donetsk, Russian news agencies report.

They say the convoy – Russia’s third in recent weeks – delivered food, water and generators, but this was done without Ukraine’s authorization.

Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, representing Kiev at Minsk talks, said that all sides had agreed to move back some of their heavy weapons

Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, representing Kiev at Minsk talks, said that all sides had agreed to move back some of their heavy weapons (photo AP)

The deal was reached after late-night talks between representatives of Ukraine, Russia, eastern separatists and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Correspondents say it is an effort to add substance to the fragile ceasefire agreement.

Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, representing Kiev at Minsk talks, said that all sides had agreed to move back some of their heavy weapons.

“Heavy artillery will be moved 15 km away from the front line,” he said.

He added that the deal would be implemented within 24 hours and monitors from the OSCE would travel to the buffer zone to check for compliance.

Separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko said that the two sides did not discuss the status of the rebel-held areas of Luhansk and Donetsk.

“We have our opinion on it while Ukraine has its own,” he said.

Earlier this week, Ukraine’s parliament passed a bill granting a three-year “self-rule” to parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions – a move described as “capitulation” by some Ukrainian lawmakers.

The Russian ambassador to Ukraine, Mikhail Zurabov, representing Moscow at the talks, said that “mercenaries” were fighting on both sides, and called on OSCE to oversee their removal.

Russia has repeatedly said that any of its citizens fighting alongside separatists in Ukraine are doing so in a private capacity.

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