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Belarus To Host Ukraine-Russia Talks


Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands before an ice hockey World Championship match in Minsk in May.
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands before an ice hockey World Championship match in Minsk in May.

Belarus says it will host talks between Ukraine, Russia, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on the crisis in eastern Ukraine.

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's office said on July 30 that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in a telephone conversation on July 29 had asked him to host the talks focusing on securing access to the site where a Malaysian airliner was brought down in eastern Ukraine.

The fighting in eastern Ukraine prevented representatives of the OSCE security and rights organization from reaching the crash site on July 29 for the third successive day.

The West says the pro-Russian separatists probably shot the plane down by mistake and accuses Russia of arming them. Moscow denies this.

Poroshenko also reportedly wants the talks to discuss the release of hostages Kyiv says are being held by the pro-Russian separatists.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on July 30 in Tajikistan's capital, Dushanbe, that Russia hails Belarusian officials' readiness to host the talks.

The date of the talks remains unclear, but an aide to Poroshenko was quoted by Interfax as saying it could happen within days.

The talks are expected to involve Russia's ambassador to Kyiv, Mikhail Zurabov, and former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma.

Belarus, a close ally of Russia, also maintains close ties with Ukraine.

Kyiv's military offensive has forced the rebels out of some areas they held except their strongholds in and around the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, and fighting has intensified since the deaths of 298 people when the Malaysian airliner was brought down on July 17.

The regional authorities in Donetsk, one of the regions hit worst by the fighting in east Ukraine, said on July 30 that 19 people had been killed and 31 had been injured in the region in the past 24 hours.

Officials in Ukraine's another eastern region, Luhansk, where pro-Russian separatist groups are trying to maintain their control, say one person was killed and ten people were injured since the morning of July 29.

Luhansk regional authorities also say the military operations disrupted electricity, water and natural gas supply to thousands of local residents.

On July 30, Ukraine's army said it had retaken Avdiyivka, a town on the outskirts of Donetsk, and intercepted another convoy of vehicles crossing over from Russia.

Based on reporting by BelTA and Reuters
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