Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Separatists ambush Ukrainian troops; German foreign minister seeks talks in Kiev

DONETSK, Ukraine — Pro-Russian separatists ambushed a convoy of Ukrainian troops Tuesday in the troubled eastern part of the country, as Germany's foreign minister sought to jump-start talks between the Kiev government and the separatists as part of a European bid to resolve the crisis.

The German delegation's arrival signaled that efforts to find a diplomatic solution may be gaining pace.

But there was renewed fighting Tuesday, with pro-Russian rebels killing seven Ukrainian troops and wounding eight others in an attack about 1 p.m. local time about 12 miles outside the city of Kramatorsk.

A grenade struck one armored personnel carrier's engine, the ministry said, and rebels opened fire as Ukrainian troops tried to move the crippled vehicle out of the way. Six soldiers were killed in the ambush, and one later died of his injuries, local media reported.

The attack occurred a day after separatists used the results of Sunday's snap elections to herald the birth of two new pro-Russian republics and demand that Ukrainian security forces leave their "sovereign" territory.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier flew to Kiev after a meeting of European foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday.

Yet statements by the foreign ministries in Kiev and Moscow suggested that the protagonists in the conflict were still talking past each other.

Russia's Foreign Ministry accused the interim Ukrainian government of escalating the conflict and called on Kiev to withdraw its troops and cease its "punitive actions" as part of a diplomatic solution worked out with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

In turn, a spokesman for Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said Russia's view of the OSCE's "road map" was "far from reality, biased and one-sided" and accused Moscow of sponsoring the separatists in an effort to destabilize Ukraine. The spokesman said Kiev was following the OSCE plan by scheduling an "all-Ukrainian roundtable" today to discuss national unity. It was not clear who would be sitting at any negotiating table, however.

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