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Ukraine says 'many dead' after rebels 'fire on fleeing civilians' trying to leave conflict area

Published on Aug 18, 2014 6:01 PM

KIEV (AFP) - Kiev on Monday accused pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine of killing "many" civilians trying to leave a conflict-torn area by shelling them with equipment provided by Moscow, as crisis talks to halt months of bloodshed failed to make a breakthrough.

Kiev’s military said “many people died, including women and children” when insurgents shot at residents escaping fierce fighting around the besieged separatist city of Lugansk with “Grad rocket launchers and mortar guns given by Russia.” The allegations came after a five-hour meeting between the foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany broke up without agreement on how to end more than four months of conflict that has killed over 2,100 people and left the region facing a humanitarian catastrophe.

Moscow has demanded that Ukraine government forces halt an offensive against main separatist strongholds. Meanwhile Kiev accuses Russia of pouring in more arms to save the unravelling insurgency. “One place where we cannot report positive results is in, first and foremost, establishing a ceasefire and (starting) a political process,” Russia’s top diplomat Sergei Lavrov said on Monday. Mr Lavrov said the ministers would however meet again and hoped that some agreement “on paper” was possible soon.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said there had been “five hours of most difficult discussion” and suggested more meetings were needed “to move forward”. “There is no place for compromise when the country has to cross its red line.” he wrote on Twitter in the early hours of Monday.

A French diplomatic source told AFP that talks also focused on securing Ukraine’s eastern border and delivering humanitarian aid to the afflicted populations.

“There was some progress, but the context is difficult,” the source said. “Now the ministers have to speak with their presidents.”

Fierce fighting centred around the second-largest rebel bastion Lugansk over the weekend as Kiev said its troops had battled their way into an outlying suburb.

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