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Ukraine Peace Talks May Take Place This Week

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko, Dec. 2, 2014.

Russia says it is committed to holding talks this week on ending the violence in eastern Ukraine.

President Vladimir Putin's foreign policy adviser, Yuri Ushakov, said Russia is ready for another meeting of the so-called "contact group" on eastern Ukraine this week.

"Contact group" members Russia, Ukraine, Russia-backed separatists, and the Organization for Security in Cooperation in Europe signed a cease-fire agreement for eastern Ukraine September 5 in Minsk, Belarus.

Russia's RIA Novosti new agency reported the representative from the rebels' self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushilin, said Monday the agenda should include a cease-fire, an end to what he called the government's "blockade" of rebel controlled-areas of eastern Ukraine, and allowing those areas' "special status" law to go into effect.

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko said Saturday "a preliminary agreement" had been reached for the contact group to meet Tuesday in Minsk.

Poroshenko's office quoted him as expressing "cautious optimism" both sides would agree to observe a "day of silence" by halting fire the day of the meeting, and also agree to pull back heavy weaponry within 30 days.

But he added what he called he called "pseudo-elections" held November 2 by the rebels in areas they control in eastern Ukraine should be annulled and new local elections held under Ukrainian law.

Violence has continued since the signing of the September 5 cease-fire agreement, with heavy shelling claiming nearly 1,000 lives and the two sides accusing each other of violating the agreement. Local authorities in eastern Ukraine reported at least 10 people were killed in shelling over the weekend.

Meanwhile, Ushakov said a meeting Saturday in Moscow between President Vladimir Putin and French President Francois Hollande that focused on the situation in Ukraine had been "constructive."

In an interview published in the Sunday edition of Germany's Die Welt newspaper, Chancellor Angela Merkel accused Russia of having created difficulties for Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine after they made sovereign decisions to sign agreements with the European Union. She said Russia has broken a 1994 agreement guaranteeing Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

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