Talks break down as war rages in eastern Ukraine

Talks break down as war rages in eastern Ukraine

[Ed. – This is a perilous situation.  Ukraine says there are as many as 9,000 Russian troops in eastern Ukraine with the “separatists.”    The separatists have already seized more territory than agreed in the last ceasefire.  It’s increasingly unlikely that the situation can be stabilized around a settlement that leaves a viable, secure Ukraine.  And it’s increasingly becoming Russia’s war.  If we haven’t reached the tipping point, it’s very close now.]

Peace talks on Ukraine collapsed on Saturday after just over four hours with no tangible progress towards a new ceasefire but with Ukraine’s representative and separatist envoys angrily accusing each other of sabotaging the meeting. …

The meeting of the “contact group”, which also involves a Russian envoy and an official from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, took place in the Belarussian capital even as fighting between Kiev’s forces and the Russian-backed rebels raged on in Ukraine’s east, claiming more civilian and military lives. …

Shortly before the Minsk talks broke up, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Russia’s Vladimir Putin in a three-way phone call had expressed the hope the meeting would at least produce a ceasefire agreement. …

Much has changed on the ground, however, since September.

The separatists have set up self-proclaimed “people’s republics”, while their forces, which Kiev says are supported by 9,000 Russian regular troops, have seized more than 500 square km (190 square miles) of territory beyond that agreed in the Minsk talks and threaten to seize control of the east’s two main regions entirely. …

Heavy shelling continued on Saturday in Ukraine’s eastern regions as the separatists sought to tighten a circle around government forces clinging on to control of the strategic rail and road junction of Debaltseve.

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