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Ukraine

France says Russia and Ukraine have agreed to work on ceasefire extension

According to the French presidency, the leaders of Russia and Ukraine have agreed to work on extending a ceasefire between Kyiv and separatists. This came shortly before the end of the previous truce.

On Monday, French officials said that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, had agreed in a phone conversation to "work on" adopting a bilateral ceasefire between separatists and Ukrainian authorities.

In a four-way teleconference that also included the German and French leaders, Putin and Poroshenko reportedly discussed rapidly setting up effective border controls to prevent militants and arms from entering Ukraine via Russia.

The two leaders also agreed to work on the liberation of more hostages and prisoners and the organization of "substantial tripartite negotiations," the French presidency announced in a statement.

According to a separate statement issued by the Kremlin after the call, the leaders "spoke in favor of convening a third round of consultations between Kyiv and southeastern regions as soon as possible."

Putin also urged setting up a control mechanism to monitor an extended truce with the participation of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, according to the statement.

Ceasefire running out

The phone conversation between German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, Putin and Poroshenko was the second such call in as many days.

It comes as a ceasefire declared by Poroshenko on June 20 to allow peace talks with separatists in the east of the country was set to expire on Monday evening.

The European Union has set the same deadline as it considers imposing more sanctions on Russia unless the separatists end their aggression.

Kyiv and the EU hold Russia partially responsible for the violence in Ukraine's east, where the separatists have taken control of a number of key cities in 12 weeks of unrest. More than 440 people have died in violence, and thousands have been displaced.

tj/mkg (Reuters, AFP)

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