Shelling Near Ukraine Port of Mariupol Hours Before Cease-Fire Talks

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MARIUPOL, Ukraine - Fresh shelling was heard outside Ukraine's strategic port city of Mariupol early Friday, hours before talks that both sides hoped would bring a cease-fire to the conflict. Pro-Russia rebels kept up their offensive on the city after weeks in which they have managed to peg back Ukrainian government troops across the east of the country. Were the rebels to take the city, about 50 miles south of the main battleground around Donetsk, it would give them a key strategic stronghold in the region.

Representatives from Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were due to meet in the Belorussian capital of Minsk later Friday for talks that Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko said could bring a truce. Meanwhile at the NATO summit in Wales, the U.S. said Thursday it was prepared to slap fresh sanctions on Russia for its involvement in Ukraine.


- Keir Simmons, Albina Kovalyova, and Alexander Smith