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New Ukraine Peace Talks Fail To Halt Escalating Clashes


Ukraine on June 16 reported the death of two servicemen as a fresh round of European-mediated talks with pro-Moscow rebels failed to break the deadlock over the future status of its separatist-controlled eastern regions.

Kyiv's military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said the two soldiers died when government forces came under heavy fire from 122-millimeter howitzers in the rebel-controlled province of Luhansk.

Meanwhile, a top rebel negotiator described the meeting in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, as too inconclusive to end the 14-month war and its current upsurge in violence.

Denis Pushilin told the media, "We have made certain positive steps, but unfortunately, this is not [the outcome] we had hoped for."

But he added that the sides had agreed to gather again in Minsk on June 23.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed on to a February truce deal with his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, in Minsk that was co-sponsored by the leaders of Germany and France.

On June 16, Putin said he thought the Minsk peace deal was "fair and balanced" and that if Russia did not agree with its contents it would not have signed it.

Putin also reiterated that Russia wanted Ukraine to repay the $3 billion it lent to Kyiv via a so-called "bailout bond" under ousted President Viktor Yanukovych.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters
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