Talks aimed at striking a “binding” truce in Ukraine began in Minsk on Saturday afternoon as the number of soldiers and civilians killed continued to mount amid fierce fighting in several areas.

Representatives for the rebels, Russia, Ukraine and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe met in the Belarusian capital, but no details were immediately available.

Former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma, the OSCE’s Heidi Tagliavini, and separatist representatives Denis Pushilin and Vladislav Deinego, as well as the Russian ambassador to Kiev, Mikhail Zurabov, were participating in the talks aimed at ending fighting that has left more than 5,000 people dead.

Ukrainian business tycoon and politician Viktor Medvedchuk – a close ally of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, whom Moscow has backed as a mediator – was also present.

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