6 Ukraine Soldiers Killed In East

Germany’s Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier tried to broker a quick launch of talks between Ukraine’s central government and pro-Russia separatists, but fighting rages on, claiming six lives in eastern Ukraine.

Six servicemen were killed and eight others wounded on Tuesday afternoon outside the town of Kramatorsk, the defence ministry said.

Kramatorsk is in the Donetsk region, one of two in eastern Ukraine that declared independence on Monday following a referendum.

Earlier, Steinmeier said Germany supports Ukraine’s efforts to arrange for a dialogue between the central government and its opponents in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Pro-Russia insurgents have seized government buildings and clashed with government forces in eastern Ukraine in the past month and are holding some journalists and others hostage. Steinmeier voiced hope for a quick release of the hostages, the handover of occupied buildings and stressed the importance of holding Ukraine’s presidential vote as planned on May 25.

Steinmeier’s trip is part of the road map for settling Ukraine’s crisis laid out by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a trans-Atlantic security group.

Russia called for a swift implementation of the OSCE plan, saying its demand to end violence means that the central government in Kiev should stop its military operation to recapture buildings in the east, lift its blockade of cities and towns, pull its forces from eastern regions and release all political prisoners.

“We are demanding (they) stop intimidating civilians by using force or threatening to use it,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

It added that it expects separatists in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions to respond in kind.

“(The road map) creates conditions for launching a broad national dialogue involving all political forces and regions of Ukraine, aimed at reconciliation and a comprehensive constitutional reform intended to stop the nation from sliding further to catastrophe,” the ministry said.

Russia also urged the US and the European Union to persuade Kiev to prioritise discussions of giving more powers to Ukraine’s regions ahead of the presidential vote.

The OSCE plan calls on all sides to refrain from violence and urges amnesty for those involved in the unrest as well as talks on decentralisation and the status of the Russian language.