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Ukraine

With Russia's backing, Ukraine separatists abide by Poroshenko ceasefire

Separatist leaders in two main areas of eastern Ukraine have agreed to observe a ceasefire until June 27. EU leaders have met in Brussels to discuss the continued crisis in Ukraine.

EU ministers threaten more sanctions

Separatists in Ukraine have agreed to honor a ceasefire that went ignored over the weekend. The breakthrough came as Leonid Kuchma, Ukraine's president from 1994 to 2005, led a meeting to help end the fighting in the country's east, bringing together the Russian ambassador, separatist leaders and European officials.

Following the meeting, Alexander Borodai, the self-professed prime minister of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic, announced that his separatist faction would abide by the ceasefire, as would an allied group from a nearby region.

"The consultation ended with authorities of the Luhansk and Donetsk republics agreeing to maintain a ceasefire for their part until the 27th," Borodai said Monday.

EU leaders have urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to support Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's peace plan, which he has called unviable. World leaders have accused Russia of fomenting the rebellion in the east by sending troops and weapons across the border - allegations denied by Kremlin officials.

Russia has welcomed the peace plan but urged the Ukrainian government to engage in talks with the separatists, who have seized official buildings, declared independence and fought government troops over the past two months. The fighting has led to the deaths of hundreds of people and the displacement of tens of thousands. The conflict has also had negative effects on Ukraine's economy.

EU foreign ministers met Monday in Brussels to discuss possible sanctions against Russia.

Merkel 'critically important'

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was scheduled to travel to Kyiv on Monday, stressed the importance of the peace plan being implemented soon. "It is without a doubt a decisive week for Ukraine," Steinmeier said Monday ahead of his trip.

President Petro Poroshenko has called on Germany to give its support to his peace efforts. On Monday, his office announced that he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had spoken by phone Sunday.

"The involvement of Merkel and other world leaders is critically important to a settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine," Poroshenko's office announced.

mkg/se (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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