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Ukraine Crisis: Rockets Kill 7 in Kramatorsk Before Minsk Talks

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Seven civilians were killed in rocket strikes in Ukraine Tuesday as President Barack Obama discussed the worsening violence in a phone call to the country’s leader.

A further 26 civilians and 10 soldiers were wounded when rockets crashed into Kramatorsk, 30 miles north of the main front, hitting the headquarters of the Ukrainian military campaign as well as nearby residential areas, the government-controlled Donetsk administration said.

A Reuters photographer saw the body of a woman who had been killed, laid out in light snow where she fell. The tail of a rocket stuck out of a small crater in the ground. Pro-Russia rebels denied firing on the town, but their apparent ability to strike so far into Ukrainian-held territory will complicate peace talks that aim to reestablish a weak September ceasefire that crumbled completely in recent weeks.

Obama discussed the crisis with President Petro Poroshenko by phone on Tuesday, just as the White House is weighing sending lethal defensive assistance to Ukraine's military. On Monday, Obama discussed the issue at the White House with German Chancellor Angela Merkel who opposes the move and is spearheading peace talks on Wednesday Minsk, Belarus.

A White House statement describing Tuesday’s call says only that Obama committed to providing financial support for Ukraine.

The Minsk talks are expected to focus on creating a demilitarized zone in eastern Ukraine. Russian state news agency RIA Novosti quoted a source in Minsk suggesting that the main sticking point would who would oversee the zone.

Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of fueling the rebellion in eastern Ukraine with troops and weapons.

IN-DEPTH

Alastair Jamieson

Reuters contributed to this report.

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