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Russian, European Leaders Discuss Ukrainian Elections, Cease-Fire

The leaders of France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine have agreed to accelerate the pullback of heavy weapons in east Ukraine and talk next week about holding local elections as Ukraine decentralizes its government.

"The importance of having a single date for the organization of local elections in the whole of Ukraine -- including some sectors of the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk -- was underlined," said a statement from French President Francois Hollande's office after the leaders' two-hour phone conversation.

Further telephone talks on decentralization and elections are scheduled for July 28.

On weapons, the leaders agreed that preliminary accords to extend a pullback of weapons in east Ukraine should be signed quickly.

Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists agreed earlier this week that tanks and smaller weapons systems should also be withdrawn in addition to heavy artillery, as was previously agreed.

Under a cease-fire agreement brokered in Minsk in February, weapons of over 100-mm caliber should have already been withdrawn, but both sides accuse the other of continuing to use heavy artillery. Casualties are reported almost daily from their use.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP

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