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Ukraine’s leader talks with Putin, Merkel on peace

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KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Separatist rebels have not fulfilled conditions like handing back border posts or laying down their weapons, Ukraine’s president said Monday in a phone call with the leaders of Russia, Germany and France as he pondered whether to extend a cease-fire.

The call between President Petro Poroshenko, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and France’s Francois Hollande took place as an expiration deadline neared for Ukraine’s shaky, unilateral cease-fire.

Poroshenko has already extended the cease-fire from seven days to 10 as part of a plan to end the conflict that has killed more than 400 people since April. The cease-fire has been continuously broken, however, and the pro-Russia rebels have not disarmed as Poroshenko has demanded.

But the statement released by his office late Monday didn’t say whether the cease-fire would be extended. It expires at 10 p.m. (1900 GMT, 3 p.m. EDT).

French officials said Monday’s phone call touched on establishing a full cease-fire by both sides, having international monitors on the border between Russia and Ukraine, freeing prisoners and holding substantial talks with Ukraine’s separatist rebels.

European leaders have urged Russia to use its influence with the rebels to de-escalate the conflict and warned that they could impose another round of economic sanctions against Russia if conditions for continuing the cease-fire were not met.

Those conditions included a demand that the separatists hand back three checkpoints on the border with Russia.

Rebel leader Alexander Borodai on Monday welcomed having observers monitor the situation anywhere in the separatist region but rejected the demand to hand back the border checkpoints.

Stymied by the rebels’ refusal, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Putin suggested to Poroshenko that both Ukrainian monitors and observers from the Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe deploy to checkpoints on the Russian side of the border to ensure “they aren’t used for illegal means.”

“We expect that direct and detailed consultations between Russian and Ukrainian border guards will start shortly to agree on details of the monitors’ presence,” Lavrov said in televised remarks.

A Kremlin statement said foreign ministers from the four countries would quickly hold four-way talks to discuss the issues raised by the leaders – a distinct cold shoulder to further efforts from the United States or the full European Union to be involved in Ukraine’s protracted crisis.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the U.S. welcomes encouraging words from Putin but is looking for the Russian leader to take “tangible actions” rather than just issue positive sentiments to avoid additional sanctions.

“We are still in a situation where those actions do not indicate a seriousness of purpose when it comes to deescalating the situation in Ukraine,” Earnest said. “That’s what leaves Russia at risk of further steps (sanctions).”

Sporadic fighting still flared Monday despite the cease-fire. Shelling killed at least two people and ruined several apartments in the rebel-held city of Slovyansk in the eastern region of Donetsk.

Poroshenko says his unilateral cease-fire is a first step to give rebels a chance to lay down their arms. Further steps would include an amnesty for separatists who have not committed serious crimes, early local elections and changes in the constitution to decentralize power to Ukraine’s regions.

But in Slovyansk, shooting kept up through the night, growing heavy at times Monday morning. Some of the shelling appeared to be directed at rebel front-line positions but other shells landed in a residential neighborhood, destroying or damaging several buildings.

One woman, 62-year-old Vera Sayenko, died when a shell hit her ninth floor apartment, neighbors told an AP journalist.

“Everything we have collected in our life is destroyed. We have become poor,” said Valery, whose apartment was also destroyed. He would not give his last name. “Show all Ukrainians what happened here. What else do they want, to ruin the town and kill people?”

Ukrainian police and prosecutors were also investigating the death of a Russian cameraman working for Russia’s Channel One. Anatoly Klyan, 68, was fatally wounded late Sunday when a bus carrying journalists and soldiers’ mothers was hit by gunfire as it approached a military base in eastern Ukraine after dark.

Klyan was the fifth journalist to die since the fighting began in April.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine began after a protest movement among those seeking closer ties with the EU prompted President Viktor Yanukovych to flee in February. Calling it an illegal coup, Russia seized and annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region in March. The insurrection in the Russian-speaking east began shortly afterward.

Last week, Ukraine signed a trade and political deal with the EU – the one that Yanukovych had rejected.

Szlanko reported from Slovyansk, Ukraine. Lynn Berry and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow, Elaine Ganley in Paris and Josh Lederman in Washington contributed to this report.

Ukraine’s leader talks with Putin, Merkel on peace

KDWN

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s president spoke with the leaders of Russia, Germany and France on Monday to figure out how best to resolve the deadly conflict with pro-Russian separatists in the east.

The telephone call between President Petro Poroshenko, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and France’s Francois Hollande took place as an expiration deadline neared for Ukraine’s shaky, unilateral cease-fire.

Poroshenko has already extended the cease-fire from seven days to 10 as part of a plan to end the conflict that has killed more than 400 people. The cease-fire has been continuously broken, however, and rebels have not laid down their weapons as Poroshenko has demanded.

Poroshenko said during the call that the conditions, agreed in a four-way talk a day earlier, “haven’t been fulfilled,” but the statement released by his office didn’t say whether the cease-fire would be extended. It expires at 10 p.m. (1900 GMT, 3 p.m. EDT).

French officials said Monday’s phone call touched on establishing a full cease-fire by both sides, having international monitors on the border between Russia and Ukraine, freeing prisoners and holding substantial talks with Ukraine’s separatist rebels.

European leaders have urged Russia to use its influence with the rebels to de-escalate the conflict and warned that they could impose another round of economic sanctions against Russia if the conditions for continuing the cease-fire are not met.

Those conditions included a demand that the separatists hand back three checkpoints on the border with Russia that they have seized.

Rebel leader Alexander Borodai on Monday welcomed having observers monitor the situation anywhere in the region but rejected the demand to hand back the border checkpoints. Rebels have previously kidnapped several teams of monitors.

Stymied by the rebels’ refusal, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Putin suggested to Poroshenko that both Ukrainian monitors and observers from the Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe deploy to checkpoints on the Russian side of the border to ensure “they aren’t used for illegal means.”

“We expect that direct and detailed consultations between Russian and Ukrainian border guards will start shortly to agree on details of the monitors’ presence,” Lavrov said in televised remarks.

A Kremlin statement said foreign ministers from the four countries would quickly carry the four-way talks to discuss the issues by the leaders – a distinct cold shoulder to further efforts from the United States or the full European Union to be involved in Ukraine’s protracted crisis.

Sporadic fighting still flared Monday despite the cease-fire. Shelling killed at least two people and ruined several apartments in the rebel-held city of Slovyansk in the eastern region of Donetsk.

Poroshenko says his unilateral cease-fire is a first step to give rebels a chance to lay down their arms. Further steps would include an amnesty for separatists who have not committed serious crimes, early local elections and changes in the constitution to decentralize power to Ukraine’s regions.

But in Slovyansk, shooting kept up through the night, growing heavy at times Monday morning. Some of the shelling appeared to be directed at rebel front-line positions but other shells landed in a residential neighborhood, destroying or damaging several buildings.

One woman, 62-year-old Vera Sayenko, died when a shell hit her ninth floor apartment, neighbors told an AP journalist, as well as another woman during shelling.

“Everything we have collected in our life is destroyed. We have become poor,” said Valery, whose apartment was also destroyed. He would not give his last name. “Show all Ukrainians what happened here. What else do they want, to ruin the town and kill people?”

Ukrainian police and prosecutors were also investigating the death of a Russian cameraman working for Russia’s Channel One. Anatoly Klyan, 68, was fatally wounded late Sunday when a bus carrying journalists and soldiers’ mothers was hit by gunfire as it approached a military base in eastern Ukraine after dark.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry blamed the attack on Ukrainian soldiers and demanded an objective investigation.

Klyan was the fifth journalist to die since the fighting began in April.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine began after a protest movement among those seeking closer ties with the EU prompted President Viktor Yanukovych to flee in February. Calling it an illegal coup, Russia seized and annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region in March, saying it was protecting Russian speakers. The insurrection in the east began shortly afterward.

Ukraine signed a trade and political deal with the EU last week, the one that Yanukovych had rejected.

Szlanko reported from Slovyansk, Ukraine. Lynn Berry and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.

Ukraine’s leader talks with Putin, Merkel on peace

KDWN

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s president spoke with the leaders of Russia, Germany and France on Monday to figure out how best to resolve the deadly conflict with pro-Russian separatists in the east.

The telephone call between President Petro Poroshenko, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and France’s Francois Hollande took place as an expiration deadline neared for Ukraine’s shaky, unilateral cease-fire.

Poroshenko has already extended the cease-fire from seven days to 10 as part of a plan to end the conflict that has killed more than 400 people. The cease-fire has been continuously broken, however, and rebels have not laid down their weapons as Poroshenko has demanded.

National security spokesman Andriy Lysenko said the decision would come before the cease-fire expires at 10 p.m. (1900 GMT, 3 p.m. EDT).

European leaders have urged Russia to use its influence with the rebels to de-escalate the conflict. They have said they could impose another round of economic sanctions against Russia if the conditions for a continuing cease-fire are not met.

French officials said the phone call Monday touched on establishing a full cease-fire by both sides, having international monitors on the border between Russia and Ukraine, freeing prisoners and holding substantial talks with Ukraine’s separatist rebels.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Putin suggested to Poroshenko that both Ukrainian monitors and observers from the Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe deploy to checkpoints on the Russian side of the border to ensure “they aren’t used for illegal means.”

“We expect that direct and detailed consultations between Russian and Ukrainian border guards will start shortly to agree on details of the monitors’ presence,” he said in remarks carried by Russian news wires.

A Kremlin statement said foreign ministers from the four countries would carry the four-way talks – a distinct cold shoulder to efforts from the United States or the full European Union to be further involved in Ukraine’s protracted crisis.

Sporadic fighting still flared Monday despite the cease-fire. Shelling killed at least two people and ruined several apartments in the rebel-held city of Slovyansk in the eastern region of Donetsk.

Poroshenko has demanded that rebels return posts along the Russia border to Ukrainian control and allow international monitors to verify the cease-fire. Rebels in the past have kidnapped several teams of monitors.

Rebel leader Alexander Borodai welcomed having OSCE observers monitor the situation anywhere in the region but rejected the demand to hand back the border checkpoints.

Poroshenko says his unilateral cease-fire is a first step to give rebels a chance to lay down their arms. Further steps would include an amnesty for separatists who have not committed serious crimes, early local elections and changes in the constitution to decentralize power to Ukraine’s regions.

In Slovyansk, shooting kept up through the night, growing heavy at times Monday morning. Some of the shelling appeared to be directed at rebel front-line positions but other shells landed in a residential neighborhood, destroying or damaging several buildings.

One woman, 62-year-old Vera Sayenko, died when a shell hit her ninth floor apartment, neighbors told an AP journalist, as well as another woman during shelling.

“Everything we have collected in our life is destroyed. We have become poor,” said Valery, whose apartment was also destroyed. He would not give his last name. “Show all Ukrainians what happened here. What else do they want, to ruin the town and kill people?”

Ukrainian police and prosecutors were also investigating the death of a cameraman working for Russia’s Channel One. Anatoly Klyan, 68, was fatally wounded late Sunday when a bus carrying journalists and soldiers’ mothers was hit by gunfire as it approached a military base in eastern Ukraine after dark.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry blamed the attack on Ukrainian soldiers and demanded an objective investigation.

Klyan was the fifth journalist to die since the fighting began in April.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine began after a protest movement among those seeking closer ties with the EU prompted President Viktor Yanukovych to flee in February. Calling it an illegal coup, Russia seized and annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region in March, saying it was protecting Russian speakers. The insurrection in the east began shortly afterward.

Ukraine signed a trade and political deal with the EU last week, the one that Yanukovych had rejected.

Szlanko reported from Slovyansk, Ukraine. Lynn Berry and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.

Ukraine’s leader talks with Putin, Merkel on peace

KDWN

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s president has spoken with his counterparts from Russia, Germany and France to see how best to resolve the deadly conflict with pro-Russian separatists in the east.

The telephone call Monday between President Petro Poroshenko, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and France’s Francois Hollande took place as an expiration deadline neared for Ukraine’s shaky, unilateral cease-fire that started 10 days ago.

French officials said the talks touched on establishing a full cease-fire by both sides, international monitoring of the border between Russia and Ukraine, freeing prisoners and holding substantial talks with Ukraine’s separatist rebels.

A Kremlin statement said foreign ministers from the four countries would carry the four-way talks.

The cease-fire has been continuously broken, however, and rebels have not laid down their weapons as Poroshenko demanded.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

Ukraine’s president faced a decision Monday on whether to extend a shaky cease-fire with pro-Russia rebels in the country’s east, as European leaders pressed Russia to help de-escalate the simmering conflict.

President Petro Poroshenko has already extended the cease-fire from seven days to 10 as part of a peace plan to end the conflict that has killed more than 400 people. National security spokesman Andriy Lysenko said the presidential decision would come before the cease-fire expires at 10 p.m. (1900 GMT, 3 p.m. EDT).

Sporadic fighting still flared Monday despite the cease-fire. Shelling killed at least two people and ruined several apartments in the rebel-held city of Slovyansk in the eastern separatist region of Donetsk.

Poroshenko has demanded that rebels return posts along the Russia border to Ukrainian control and allow international monitors to verify the cease-fire. Rebels in the past have kidnapped several teams of monitors.

European leaders have pressed Russia to help de-escalate the situation or face the possibility of additional economic sanctions. A four-way phone call was to take place Monday among Poroshenko, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande.

The four also spoke for two hours Sunday as Poroshenko struggled to get his peace plan past a wobbly start. Ukraine says the rebels are still attacking and locals protested near Poroshenko’s office in Kiev on Sunday, demanding military action against the separatists.

Poroshenko says his unilateral cease-fire is a first step to give rebels a chance to lay down their arms. Further steps would include an amnesty for separatists who have not committed serious crimes, early local elections and changes in the constitution to decentralize power to Ukraine’s regions.

In Slovyansk, shooting kept up through the night and into Monday morning. Residents saying the army appeared to start shelling after rebels opened fire. Heavy shelling was heard throughout the town from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m.

Some of the shelling appeared to be directed at rebel front-line positions outside the city while other shells landed in a residential neighborhood, destroying or damaging several buildings.

One woman, 62-year-old Vera Sayenko, died when a shell hit her ninth floor apartment, neighbors told an AP journalist.

“Everything we have collected in our life is destroyed. We have become poor,” said Valery, whose apartment was also destroyed. He would not give his last name. “Show all Ukrainians what happened here. What else do they want, to ruin the town and kill people?”

Ukrainian police and prosecutors were investigating the death of a cameraman working for Russia’s Channel One. Anatoly Klyan, 68, was fatally wounded when a bus carrying journalists and soldiers’ mothers was hit by gunfire.

Channel One said its crew was traveling late Sunday to a Ukrainian military base with the mothers of conscripts hoping to bring their sons home when their bus came under attack near Avdiivka, a village north of the city of Donetsk. Channel One said the trip was organized by the rebels and that the bus, whose driver was wearing camouflage, came under fire as it approached the military base in the dark.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry blamed the attack on Ukrainian soldiers and demanded an objective investigation. Klan was the fifth journalist to die since the fighting began in April.

Szlanko reported from Slovyansk, Ukraine.