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Kerry To Soon Visit Ukraine As Fighting Rages

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Kyiv to express U.S. support for the government as it fights pro-Russian separatists in the east.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Kyiv to express U.S. support for the government as it fights pro-Russian separatists in the east.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Ukraine next week to show U.S. support for the government as fighting spikes with pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Kerry will leave for Kyiv on February 5. He is then to head to an international security conference in Munich.

There had been speculation Kerry might travel to Moscow during the trip.

Psaki says no such stop was planned but that Kerry would meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov while in Germany, although she said Kerry will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov while both men are at the Munich Security Conference.

Kerry would have been the most senior U.S. official to visit Moscow since the start of the Ukraine crisis last year.

The United States and Russia have clashed over the situation in Ukraine with Washington accusing Moscow of supporting the rebels with money, weapons and soldiers. Moscow denies those allegations.

Full-blown fighting between the Russian-backed separatists and government forces erupted anew earlier this month following a period of relative tranquility.

Earlier on January 30, artillery fire killed at least 12 civilians in the main rebel stronghold of Donetsk.

Fighting also continued in and around Debaltseve, a railway hub that links the main rebel-held cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.

As a result of the fighting, Debaltseve has been without electricity, running water and household gas for more than a week.

The United Nations on January 30 voiced concern about the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Debaltseve and other densely populated areas in eastern Ukraine where intense fighting is going on.

Neal Walker, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine, has called for an immediate humanitarian truce to allow humanitarian assistance and evacuation of civilians.

"Indiscriminate shelling of civilians violates international humanitarian law and must stop," he said in a statement.

While clashes in east Ukraine rage, hopes still linger in reviving a peace deal agreed in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, last September.

Two rebel representatives went to the Belarusian capital Minsk for peace talks on January 30, but returned to eastern Ukraine a few hours later.

Civilians In Separatist-Held Areas ‘Under Fire Daily’
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WATCH: Civilians In Separatist-Held Areas ‘Under Fire Daily’

Leonid Kuchma, a former president who represented Ukraine in the previous rounds of talks, said that the rebels must send their top leaders to the talks, while the rebels, in their turn, demanded that Kyiv name a new envoy who will have more powers.

Donetsk rebel representative Denis Pushilin insisted that the rebels' ongoing offensive is a way to protect civilians from Ukrainian artillery fire and said they will go ahead with it unless Kiev stops shelling the rebel-held areas.

"The situation has worsened and it is forcing us to go on offensive," Pushilin told reporters in Minsk. "New victims are inevitable, I'm afraid."

Pushilin said they would be ready to resume the cease-fire that was brokered in September and withdraw heavy weaponry, but only as long as the demarcation line takes into account the rebels' recent advance.

Rebels have taken hundreds of square kilometers from Ukrainian forces since the first line of contact was established in the Minsk agreement.

At the UN, Ukraine's ambassador said his country soon will ask the world body's member states to formally recognize Russia as a sponsor of terrorism.

Yuriy Sergeyev told reporters on January 30 that Ukraine will submit a draft resolution to the UN General Assembly that echoes the declaration by the country's parliament eaerlier this week.

Ukraine's parliament also declared the Russia-backed separatist republics in the east to be terrorist organizations.

That formally eliminates the possibility of holding peace talks with the republics' representatives.

With reporting by AP, AFP and Reuters
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