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Ukraine's president pushed for both a quick cease-fire in his country's troubled east and defensive weapons from the West, as mediators sought momentum Saturday for a deal to stem the fighting at Europe's edge.
Petro Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin are to confer with the leaders of Germany and France by phone Sunday in an effort to overcome months of setbacks and suspicion and breathe new life into a much-violated September peace plan. But even those who had scheduled the call were cautious about its prospects.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel — who along with French President Francois Hollande traveled to Kiev on Thursday and Moscow on Friday — acknowledged disillusionment over the failure of previous agreements to stick and said "there are no theoretical guarantees" that a new one would either.
More than 5,300 people have been killed since fighting began in April, according to a U.N. tally, and the bloodshed has markedly increased over the past two weeks. The resurgent fighting has prompted the U.S. to consider giving lethal weapons to Ukraine, an option opposed by European nations which fear the move would merely exacerbate the situation.
"I cannot imagine any situation in which improved equipment for the Ukrainian army leads to President Putin being so impressed that he believes he will lose militarily," Merkel said at the Munich Security Conference. "I have to put it that bluntly."
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who also attended the Munich conference, stopped short of explicitly addressing possible arms deliveries. "We will continue to provide Ukraine with security assistance not to encourage war, but to allow Ukraine to defend itself," he said.
Meanwhile, fighting continued in eastern Ukraine. Five Ukrainian servicemen were killed and 26 wounded in fighting over the past day, Ukrainian security council spokesman Volodymyr Polyoviy said Saturday.
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