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Ukraine peace talks in Belarus called off at the eleventh hour

Talks had been aimed at beefing up flimsy ceasefire

Tom Mendelsohn
Friday 26 December 2014 15:13 GMT
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A protester holds an Ukranian national flag from a burned building during a face-off against police in Kiev in February
A protester holds an Ukranian national flag from a burned building during a face-off against police in Kiev in February (AFP/Getty)

A new round of ceasefire talks between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian rebel forces have been called off.

The talks, which had been scheduled for today on neutral ground in the Belariusian capital Minsk, were called off this morning.

Belarusian Foreign Ministry spokesman Dmitry Mironchik confirmed to the Associated Press that talks had broken down, but no reasons were given for the cancellation.

Pro-Russian separatists seized control of Donetsk and Luhansk in the eastern part of Ukraine, shortly after Moscow annexed Ukrainian-held Crimea in March, prompting international condemnation and considerable violence.

Called in an attempt to beef up a flimsy, regularly-breached ceasefire originally declared in September, the talks have not been marked with much success.

Today's talks had been aimed at setting up an exchange of prisoners of war, withdrawing heavy weapons and ending Ukraine's economic blockade of rebel-held areas.

A previous round of talks was held on Wednesday, a day after Ukraine announced it would drop its status as "non-aligned", a move which brings it a step closer to membership of Nato. Russia heavily criticised the decision.

Russia's Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov accused Nato members on Tuesday of "trying to turn Ukraine into a front line of confrontation with Russia".

Additional reporting by the Associated Press

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