2014-12-26 15:58:00

Ukraine peace talks collapse

(Vatican Radio)-- Another round of peace talks due to take place in Minsk between the Kiev government and pro-Russian rebels has been cancelled amid new tensions between the warring factions. The negotiations were held amid calls by Pope Francis for peace in troubled Ukraine.

Listen to Stefan Bos’ report:

The foreign ministry of Belarus, which has been hosting Ukraine's peace talks, confirmed that a much-anticipated round of negotiations planned on Friday was scrapped.

Ukrainian officials reportedly complained that pro-Russian separatists did not fulfil their promise of exchanging prisoners agreed to in talks in Minsk held on Christmas Eve.

Under that deal 150 government soldiers would be swapped for 225 rebels.


Russia and Europe's security organization OSCE also took part in the negotiations.

Friday’s meeting was due to deal with the removal of heavy weapons from the front line, the exchange of more prisoners and Kiev ending the economic blockade in rebel-held areas.

Amid the fresh tensions, Ukraine’s state rail company said it had suspended passenger and cargo train services to the Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in March.

The company cited security concerns at a time when Kiev and Moscow's relationship has come under further strain over Ukraine's parliament;s decision this week to effectively open the door to membership of the NATO military alliance. Kiev also accuses Russia of actively supporting separatists with weapons and troops, charges Moscow denies. 


Earlier Ukraine cut electricity supplies to Crimea, which is heavily dependent on power from the Ukrainian mainland.  Yet, the festive season has prompted at least some residents in war town regions, such as Donetsk, to express hope for the New Year,

Donetsk resident Vasiliy Popov, who visited a busy Christmas market, said he wanted peace in 2015 for both sides in the conflict. “They need to find some sense and rethink things. We’re one nation and I want Donetsk to prosper.”

He added that this year “has not been very good year as old people and children have died in war” and devastation. “It’s a shame what has happened.”

Pope Francis agrees. He has urged warring factions to use this Christmas season to find a peace settlement as at least 4,700 people have died due to fighting between government forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Among the victims are over 1,300 people who were killed since a shaky ceasefire was agreed in September.

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