UKRAINE-RUSSIA-CRISIS

Peace talks aimed at ending the bloodshed in eastern Ukraine have broken up with no plans to resume, according to Sky News sources.

The main members of the so-called contact group – Ukrainian former president Leonid Kuchma, a Russian diplomat and an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe official – had met at a state residence in the Belarussian capital Minsk, where they were joined by two separatist officials.

Diplomatic sources told Sky’s Katie Stallard the talks broke up with no conclusion.

She was told their resumption on Sunday was not likely and differences were very wide – with the atmosphere described as not fruitful.

It came on a day when 12 civilians were killed by separatist shelling in Debaltseve, which lies to the northeast of Donetsk, according to a police chief.

Ukraine’s Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak, meanwhile, said 15 Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 30 wounded in clashes across the east.

The two sides in Ukraine’s civil war have held only one inconclusive meeting since agreeing a ceasefire last September.

That truce collapsed with a new rebel advance last week.

Rebels are fighting to remove the two regions of Donetsk and Luhansk from Kiev’s control.

Both sides have accused each other of deadly artillery and mortar strikes on civilian targets in the past two weeks, including the one on a cultural centre seen by Sky’s correspondent.

More than 5,000 people have been killed in the Ukraine conflict since last April, which flared up after Russia annexed Crimea.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande discussed the situation in east Ukraine in a phone call on Saturday, the Kremlin said in a statement

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