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June 23, 2017

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Europe in fresh push for talks on Ukraine

KIEV--Europe stepped up diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis in Ukraine Tuesday, with the German foreign minister in Kiev pushing authorities and pro-Moscow rebels to come together at the negotiating table.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier's efforts came amid guarded optimism after the OSCE East-West security body said Moscow supported its roadmap to resolving the crisis through talks, disarmament and elections.

Russia's lukewarm endorsement on Monday of weekend independence votes in the eastern provinces of Donetsk and Lugansk also allayed fears President Vladimir Putin would move quickly to annex the territories, as he did with Crimea earlier this year.

But Moscow kept the pressure on Kiev, insisting that talks on regional rights must take place before a presidential vote on May 25 and accusing the pro-Western interim government of refusing "real dialogue."

Later in the day the European Commission will host Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk in Brussels to offer support and discuss the next move in attempts to defuse a crisis that has brought the West's relations with Russia to their lowest point since the Cold War.

After talks with Yatsenyuk, Steinmeier said the situation in Ukraine remained "very threatening" but that he hoped progress was being made on resolving the crisis peacefully.

Calling for "a national dialogue under Ukrainian leadership," Steinmeier said: "I hope this will create the conditions to take a step to bring back occupied territory, disarm armed groups step-by-step and reinstall the authority of the state."

He also said presidential elections will "play a crucial role" in bringing the country out of crisis.

Steinmeier was later due to meet interim president Oleksandr Turchynov and travel to the southern city of Odessa.

'National dialogue'

In Moscow, the foreign ministry said Kiev's "refusal to engage in real dialogue ... was a serious impediment to a de-escalation" of the crisis.

The ministry said Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin had met the European Union's Moscow representative

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