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June 27, 2017

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Ukraine says rebels killed civilians on run, talks fail

DONETSK, Ukraine--Ukraine on Monday accused pro-Russian rebels of shelling a convoy of civilians fleeing the war-torn east, leaving "many" dead, as crisis talks to halt months of bloodshed failed to make a breakthrough.

Kiev's military said "many people died, including women and children" when insurgents shot at residents escaping fierce fighting around the besieged separatist city of Lugansk with "Grad rocket launchers and mortar guns given by Russia."

The allegations came after a five-hour meeting between the foreign ministers of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany broke up without agreement on how to end more than four months of conflict that has killed over 2,100 people and left the region facing a humanitarian catastrophe.

Moscow has demanded that Ukraine government forces halt an offensive against main separatist strongholds. Meanwhile Kiev accuses Russia of pouring in more arms to save the unraveling insurgency.

"One place where we cannot report positive results is in, first and foremost, establishing a ceasefire and (starting) a political process," Russia's top diplomat Sergei Lavrov said Monday.

Lavrov said the ministers would however meet again and hoped that some agreement "on paper" was possible soon.

Ukraine's foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin said there had been "five hours of most difficult discussion" and suggested more meetings were needed "to move forward."

"There is no place for compromise when the country has to cross its red line." he wrote on Twitter in the early hours of Monday.

A French diplomatic source told AFP that talks also focused on securing Ukraine's eastern border and delivering humanitarian aid to the afflicted populations.

"There was some progress, but the context is difficult," the source said. "Now the ministers have to speak with their presidents."

Struggle Without Water

Fierce fighting centered around the second-largest rebel bastion Lugansk over the weekend as Kiev said its troops had battled their way into an outlying suburb.

Nine soldiers were killed in clashes with insurgent fighters across the strife-torn east over the past 24 hours, a military spokesman said Monday.

The army said rebels in the Lugansk region also shot down a Ukrainian warplane on Sunday.

Those left in the city have been facing an increasingly severe humanitarian crisis with water and power cut for over two weeks as Kiev's army inched closer to regaining control.

In Ukraine's largest rebel stronghold of Donetsk people were lining up to buy drinking water from kiosks after fighting forced local authorities to turn off supplies.

The city hall urged residents late Sunday to stock up as water was turned off and central hotels instructed clients to fill their bathtubs.

Fighting around the city has also severed the railroad link between Donetsk and the rest of the country, leaving few options to flee the city for its remaining residents.

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