Hollande and Merkel to visit Ukraine to boost Peace

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Kiev: French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are traveling to Ukraine on Thursday with a new peace initiative, as pressure mounts for Western countries to provide Ukraine the capacity to block further separatist offensives.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is also in Kiev, said the US wanted a diplomatic solution, but would not close its eyes to Russian aggression.

Mr Kerry held talks with Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian President, as the US debates whether to intervene more directly in the Ukraine conflict after a recent upsurge in fighting in the east of the country and the collapse of a peace accord.

Merkel’s spokesperson Steffen Seibert said, “Given the escalation of violence in the past days, the chancellor and President Hollande are intensifying their months-long efforts for a peaceful settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.”

Fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels has killed more than 5,000 people since last April.

Kerry has urged Russia to cease its military support for separatists and commit to a diplomatic solution to the hostilities.

Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of arming rebels in eastern Ukraine and sending regular troops across the border. Russia denies direct involvement but says some Russian volunteers are fighting alongside the rebels.

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