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Foreign ministers bid for Ukraine ceasefire talks by Tuesday

Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France called for fresh ceasefire talks on east Ukraine by Tuesday at the latest, Berlin's chief diplomat said, as nerves started to fray in the volatile region.

BERLIN: Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France called for fresh ceasefire talks on east Ukraine by Tuesday at the latest, Berlin's chief diplomat said, as nerves started to fray in the volatile region.

Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier held phone talks with his French counterpart Laurent Fabius, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin and Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Ivanov, according to a Berlin statement on Monday.

"All parties are working insistently to ensure the Contact Group gets in contact with the separatists no later than tomorrow by video conference," said the German foreign ministry.

"A physical meeting of the Contact Group with representatives from the separatists should be held very swiftly after," it added.

The so-called Contact Group represents Ukraine, Russia and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Foreign ministers from Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France earlier this month urged fresh talks to hammer out a ceasefire to end snowballing violence in the east of the country.

Last weekend was one of the bloodiest since Kiev launched a military offensive against rebels who declared independence after the toppling of Ukraine's former pro-Kremlin leader.

The Kremlin on Monday was forced to deny reports that it was considering targeted strikes against Ukraine after a Russian was killed by shells Moscow said came from across the border.

Hours later Kiev claimed a military plane was downed by missiles that likely came from Russian territory, while NATO warned that Moscow had massed as many as 12,000 troops near its border with Ukraine.

Moscow said it has invited the OSCE to send observers to monitor the Russian-Ukrainian border in a bid to defuse the escalating tensions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel after meeting at the sidelines of the World Cup final on Sunday repeated their call for fresh ceasefire talks as soon as possible.

"The two leaders agreed that unfortunately the situation is deteriorating," Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov told the Russian news agency Ria Novosti.

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