The FINANCIAL -- The German government says Germany, France, Russia, and Ukraine have agreed on a number of "immediate measures" to push forward with a peace deal brokered in 2015 to end the bloody fighting in eastern Ukraine.
The government in Berlin said late on July 24 that the so-called Normandy Group called for the immediate halt to all violations of the cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, where Russia-backed separatists are fighting forces of the central government in Kyiv, according to RFE/RL.
A statement after a two-hour phone conversation between the leaders of the four countries said separating Ukrainian troops and Russia-aligned fighters and the withdrawal of heavy weapons also are priorities.
Details on specific measures were not immediately provided.
A 2015 peace plan known as the Minsk accords has failed to stop fighting in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has killed more than 10,000 people since erupting in April 2014.
All previous cease-fire calls have failed, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at the Group of 20 meeting in early July that progress in efforts to end the violence had been "very, very slow."
In the July 24 phone call, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko demanded that Russia stop sending weapons to the separatists and called for deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping force in the conflict regions near the Russian border.
Poroshenko’s office said in a statement that President Emmanuel Macron criticized last week's announcement by a separatist leader who said he wanted to establish a new state in Ukraine called Malorossia, or Little Russia.
The Kremlin said in a statement that Russian President Vladimir Putin "presented in great detail Russia's approach on all key points of the [Minsk] agreement."
The United States and other Western nations have imposed sanctions on Moscow after it illegally annexed Ukraine's Crimea region and for its support of separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine.
Russia denies providing weapons and personnel to the separatists, despite evidence of such support.
A representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which independently monitors the conflict, also participated in the call, officials said.
The talks came as the newly appointed U.S. envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, traveled to Kyiv in an effort to revitalize the Minsk deal.
With reporting by dpa, The Kyiv Post, and AP