German, French FMs call for complete ceasefire in Ukraine

Foreign ministers from Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France have called for a total ceasefire in eastern Ukraine as Russian President Vladimir Putin ruled out the “apocalyptic scenario” of all-out war.
Top diplomats from the four countries, whose leaders hammered out the initial peace plan in the Belarussian capital Minsk 12 days ago, met in Paris, with Kiev accusing Moscow and pro-Russian rebels on the ground of torpedoing the truce.
“We call for the strict implementation of all provisions of the Minsk accords starting with a total ceasefire and complete withdrawal of heavy weapons,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said after three hours of talks.
Tuesday’s meeting honed in on the situation in the strategic transport hub of Debaltseve, which seized by pro-Russian rebels last week in defiance of the ceasefire – meant to start February 15 – as well as fresh rebel attacks on the port city of Mariupol.
Fighting has dropped off significantly since the rebel assault on Debaltseve but clashes still continue around strategic flashpoints in Ukraine’s industrial east.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the situation was “extremely fragile” after repeated violations of the ceasefire.
Ukraine’s military said one soldier was killed and seven injured in the past 24 hours and that rebels had again tried to storm the village of Shyrokine which lies east of Mariupol.
The continuing clashes have delayed a pull-back of heavy weapons that was due to start a week ago under the peace plan.
Kiev refuses to withdraw its big guns from the frontline until the shooting stops definitively.
The rebels have claimed several times that they have started to withdraw arms but this has not been confirmed by monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Steinmeier said starting to pull out heavy weapons would be a small step towards rebuilding shattered trust between the warring parties.

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