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European Countries Alarmed Over Fighting in Ukraine

FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, gestures during his talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and French President Francois Hollande, right, in Moscow, Feb. 6, 2015.

Countries instrumental to the Minsk accords have raised the alarm about a recent surge in fighting in eastern Ukraine.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the situation in a telephone call Tuesday and condemned the recent uptick in fighting in the Donbas region, the Kremlin said in a statement.

According to the statement, Putin drew attention to "provocations" by Ukraine in Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014 after protesters overthrew Kiev's pro-Moscow president.

The three leaders also discussed the implementation of the Minsk agreements. "There was agreement that progress was urgently needed and that in particular, a stabilization of the cease-fire had to be achieved," a German spokesman said.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said last week he did not rule out introducing martial law and a new wave of military mobilization if the separatist conflict intensified.

Putin, Merkel and Hollande agreed to meet to discuss the situation in Ukraine on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in China on September 4 and 5 in China, the Kremlin statement said, without mentioning whether Ukrainian President Poroshenko would be invited.

Despite the peace accords signed in the capital of Belarus, Minsk, in 2015, which initially helped to halt the fighting and then lower its intensity, international monitors have observed more clashes in the past weeks, some involving heavy weaponry.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian separatists and government troops has claimed the lives of more than 9,500 people since it began in spring of 2014.

Ukraine marks the 25th anniversary of its independence from Kremlin rule Wednesday as it has embraced a European future while grappling with its tense relations with Russia.