Belarus says Ukraine meeting will go ahead

MOSCOW - Belarus’ Foreign Ministry confirmed Tuesday that the next meeting of the contact group to discuss settling the ongoing conflict in Ukraine will go ahead in Minsk on Wednesday as planned.

"The meeting is being arranged," the ministry said to Belarus' state-run news agency BelTA. The exact time and place of the meeting were not given.  

Wednesday's contact group meeting was announced after last Friday's surprise visit to Moscow by French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel who came to discuss their peace proposal with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. 

Very little information about the specific content of Friday's negotiations has come forth but Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov called the discussion "constructive."

As the three leaders met last Friday, fighting continued in southeast Ukraine between government forces and pro-Russian separatists. On Monday, the separatists claimed to have entirely surrounded Ukrainian forces in the city of Debaltseve, a claim which was disputed Tuesday by Ukraine's military spokesman.

The last meeting of the trilateral contact group in Minsk on January 31 failed to achieve any results as the separatist delegates were unprepared to negotiate a cease-fire and instead made counter-demands from the Ukrainian side.  

Since the conflict began last April, the UN estimates that over 5,300 people have been killed while 1.5 million people displaced from their homes.

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