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German, French foreign minister to head to Ukraine next week


BERLIN (Reuters) - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Wednesday said he would travel to Ukraine with his French counterpart next week to discuss if, and when, a new round of talks involving Russia could be arranged on the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Russia would continue to support fresh talks among the four leaders aimed at ending the fighting.

Russia-backed fighters took up arms against Ukrainian government forces in the east of Ukraine in April, 2014, after Russia annexed Crimea in response to the downfall of a Moscow-backed president. More than 9,500 people have been killed in the conflict.

Steinmeier told reporters in Oslo, Norway on Sunday that he hoped the sides would soon reach agreement on a measure aimed at maintaining a fragile "back to school" ceasefire in eastern Ukraine as part of an initiative by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).


The parties have been talking for weeks about measures to disentangle Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatists along the so-called "line of confrontation."

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin will meet Steinmeier in Berlin on Thursday. They will then meet again in Ukraine next week along with French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.

The OSCE's special monitoring mission in eastern Ukraine reported a higher number of ceasefire violations in its daily report on Wednesday than in the previous period, but officials say the agreement is still holding "by and large."

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Madeline Chambers and Richard Balmforth)