Putin Expresses 'Deep Concern' Over Ukraine Victims

Putin Expresses 'Deep Concern' Over Ukraine Victims

Russian President Vladimir Putin today expressed "deep concern" over the growing number of civilian casualties and refugees in eastern Ukraine.

"Vladimir Putin expressed deep concern over the growing number of peaceful civilians and a sharp increase in the number of refugees from southeastern Ukraine in Russia," the Kremlin said in a statement after a telephone conversation between Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande.

"The leaders of the three countries spoke out in favour of the OSCE assuming a more active role to monitor the situation in the conflict zone," the statement said.

The latest round of phone diplomacy took place as fighting rumbled on in east Ukraine between government troops and pro-Russia rebels after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko renewed a military operation following a 10-day ceasefire.

Russia and the West have called for fresh peace talks, with Hollande and Merkel asking Putin to help organise a Contact Group meeting before the weekend in order to define the conditions for a ceasefire.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said today that it was important to conduct the meeting as soon as possible and that it should be held in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian foreign ministry said consultations were under way but no venue for the meeting has yet been determined.

The Russian foreign ministry separately expressed hope that the "positive results" of a crisis meeting in Berlin yesterday would convince Kiev authorities to "immediately" halt fire.

Foreign ministers of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany agreed in Berlin yesterday that the new ceasefire talks should be held this week.

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