Much-anticipated peace talks that were set to resume between the Ukraine government and pro-Russian separatists have been called off. The reason behind the cancelation remains unknown.
The first meeting in renewed talks was held on Wednesday, just one day after Ukraine decided to drop its non-aligned status, which added a new element of tension to the attempts to resolve the violent crisis in the country.
On Thursday, talks resumed, this time via Skype, and eastern Ukraine's separatist rebels said they had agreed upon exchanging prisoners with Kyiv.
Speaking on Friday, however, Belarusian ministry spokesman Dmitry Mironchik said: "There will be no negotiations of the Contact Group this Friday in Minsk," adding that, "Belarus is always ready to offer (Minsk) as a negotiations venue."
As well as exchanging prisoners, the aim of this week's talks was to discuss how to improve an often-violated cease-fire that was declared at previous peace talks in September and how to pull back heavy weapons.
Negotiators of the so-called Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine included representatives of Ukraine, pro-Russian rebels, Russia and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
More than 4,600 people have been killed since the fighting in the eastern Ukraine regions of Donetsk and Luhansk broke out in April, following Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.
ksb/tj (AFP, AP, dpa)