The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France agree to a phone conversation
Donetsk, Ukraine (CNN) [Breaking news update at 6:46 a.m.]
The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France will meet in Minsk, Belarus, on Wednesday, a German spokesman told CNN.
[Previous story, published at 5:54 a.m.]
Shelling killed eight civilians in Ukraine’s Donetsk region over the past day, a rebel official said Sunday, as world leaders try once again to end the bloodshed plaguing the nation.
At least 17 other civilians were injured in the shelling, Eduard Basurin, the self-declared deputy defense minister of the rebel group Donetsk People’s Republic, told reporters Sunday.
Western leaders and the Ukrainian government accuse Russia of providing weapons and training to the pro-Russian separatists battling Ukrainian forces in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. They have also accused Russia of sending troops to the border to fight.
Russia has denied the allegations.
A high-profile phone conversation will take place Sunday among Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande. The leaders will try to revive an agreement established last September for a ceasefire that clearly has not panned out.
Civilians increasingly are falling victim to the violence in Ukraine, with at least 224 killed and more than 540 injured in the final three weeks of January, theU.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said.
Western split on weapons?
Some U.S. officials are considering sending lethal aid to the Ukrainian military. But some Europeans, such as Merkel, have concerns about that.
“The progress that Ukraine needs cannot be achieved with more weapons,” Merkel said. “I have grave doubts about the validity of this point.”
Merkel said she believes that if the West arms Ukrainian fighters, then Russia could up the battle — and possibly introduce its air force in the fight.
But on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States and Europe are united in their diplomatic efforts.
“Let me assure everyone there is no division, there is no split,” Kerry said at the Munich Security Conference in Germany.
He reiterated that there is no military solution to the crisis with separatists in eastern Ukraine, and that borders should not be changed by force.
“But the longer that it takes, the more the off-ramps are avoided, the more we will be forced to raise the costs on Russia and its proxies,” Kerry warned.