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Europe

Merkel, Hollande discuss Ukraine crisis with Poroshenko

The leaders of Germany and France spoke with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko by phone on Sunday, discussing economic reforms and a tenuous ceasefire that has been repeatedly violated since September.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko held a telephone call Sunday to discuss a shaky ceasefire deal and economic reforms.

The trio discussed the Minsk ceasefire agreement signed in September, along with prisoner exchanges and possible renewed negotiations with pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The conflict in Ukraine's eastern Donbass region, which ignited after Russia annexed Crimea in March, has left over 4,600 dead and more than 10,200 wounded according to the United Nations.

Poroshenko told Merkel and Hollande during the telephone call that the September ceasefire continues to be violated. The Ukrainian army reported 14 attacks Sunday on its positions in the past 24 hours, but no one was killed or wounded.

Merkel and Hollande emphasized "the need for Russian authorities to take all measures expected of them to favour a de-escalation" of the conflict, a statement from the French presidency said.

The three leaders insisted that the Minsk ceasefire deal remained the only way forward for a durable solution to the Ukraine crisis, according to Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert.

Economic reforms

The French and German leaders also "encouraged president Poroshenko to start the expected reforms to redress Ukraine's economic and financial situation." The reforms include an overhaul of the tax system, an increase in energy taxes and the privatization of state firms.

"Only that way can the economy recover and the necessary international financial help be advanced," Seibert said.

The International Monetary Fund has granted Kyiv $17 billion (13.6 billion euros) in financial aid over the coming two years as part of an economic aid package from Western countries.

IMF representative David Lipton said on Saturday that he was "impressed" by Ukraine's plans for economic reform after the Ukrainian government approved a program of severe austerity cuts.

bw/cmk (Reuters, AFP)

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