France, Poland tell Russia to end 'all support to separatists'

French President Francois Hollande (right) welcomes Poland's Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Jan 30, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
French President Francois Hollande (right) welcomes Poland's Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Jan 30, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - French President Francois Hollande and Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz on Friday called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine, and for Russia to stop supporting separatists fighting in the country's east.

"We urgently call for Russia to contribute to a political solution and to put an end to all forms of support to the separatists in eastern Ukraine," they said in a joint statement after talks in Paris.

Hollande also urged rapid talks between Ukraine, Russia and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), after a meeting of the contact group planned in Minsk Friday was cancelled.

So far, western sanctions against Russia - which denies propping up the separatists - several ceasefires and international diplomacy have failed to stem the bloodshed in eastern Ukraine.

Twenty-four people, including 19 civilians, were killed in the past 24 hours in clashes between government forces and pro-Russian rebels in the region, officials said Friday.

Poland and the Baltics - Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - have been on edge since Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine last year and got involved in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Nato has deployed more aircraft, ships and personnel in a bid to reassure the four countries, all new members formerly dominated by Moscow.

France said it was willing to "prolong its contribution to security measures" in Poland, deploying tanks and armoured vehicles in the country and taking part in a number of upcoming Nato exercises.