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Poroshenko, Biden Call On Separatists to Abide by Pact

FILE - Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, shown speaking to his national security council in mid-February, discussed EU-mediated peace agreements Saturday with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko have called for Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine to fully implement Minsk peace agreements.

In a telephone conversation Saturday, Biden and Poroshenko discussed the European Union-mediated agreements, reached in the Belarussian capital in February and in September of last year.

The deals between the Ukrainian government and the rebels called for a cease-fire and verified withdrawal of heavy weapons, free access for international monitors and exchange of all prisoners.

Poroshenko also noted that Ukraine had taken additional steps to delineate the provisions of the law on special status for breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine, which lawmakers passed in September, the White House said in a statement.

Both leaders welcomed the disbursement of the first tranche of the new International Monetary Fund program for Ukraine, the statement said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande called an urgent meeting with Russian and Ukrainian presidents in mid-February as the situation in eastern Ukraine deteriorated. The four leaders adopted a series of measures involving, in particular, the cease-fire in Ukraine's Donbass region beginning February 15, the withdrawal of heavy weapons and the establishment of safety zones.

International observers have accused the rebels of violating the agreement and have threatened more sanctions against Russia for arming them. Poroshenko said Friday that the situation in eastern Ukraine had improved.