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Russia, Ukraine, Germany, France Hold 'Difficult' Crisis Talks

A member of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic militia holds a Kalashnikov automatic rifle at a checkpoint in Donetsk on August 15.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has said Ukraine crisis talks in Berlin were "difficult" but made "some progress."

Steinmeier spoke early on August 18 after a five-hour meeting with his counterparts from Russia, Ukraine, and France -- Sergei Lavrov, Pavlo Klimkin, and Laurent Fabius.

“I think and I hope that we have made some progress on certain points," Steinmeier said.

AFP news agency quoted a French diplomatic source as saying, "Despite the difficult climate, we have registered some progress."

Steinmeier said the ministers will report back to their respective heads of government and “possibly” decide on August 18-19 how to continue the talks.

He said the ministers focused on how to bring about a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, where government forces are battling pro-Russian separatists, and how to improve border controls along the Russian-Ukrainian border.

On August 17, Ukrainian military officials said government forces seized a police station in rebel-held city of Luhansk.

The city, located on the border with Russia, is now encircled by Ukrainian forces.

Kyiv also accused Russia of sending fresh military equipment across the border into eastern Ukraine over the past 24 hours.

Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said that "a convoy of military equipment, including three Grad rocket launchers, has crossed into the territory of Ukraine" and continued on to the village of Nizhniy Nagolchyk in southern Luhansk.

And Ukrainian officials said the rebels had hit a Ukrainian fighter plane over the Luhansk region.

They said the pilot ejected and was rescued by Ukrainian forces.

Meanwhile, a Kremlin spokesman denied rebel claims of Russia sending equipment and fighters into eastern Ukraine.

The denial by Dmitry Peskov came after on August 16, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, said rebels were in the process of receiving some 150 armored vehicles, including 30 tanks, and 1,200 fighters trained in Russia.

Based on reporting by AFP, Reuters, and AP