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New round of Ukraine talks to be held in Belarus; Russia foreign minister calls for cease-fire

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MOSCOW — With a new round of talks on easing the crisis in Ukraine about to start, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has called on the participants to push for a cease-fire between Ukrainian government troops and separatist forces.

PHOTO: A Pro-Russian rebel prepares arms for the the assault on the positions of Ukrainian army in Donetsk airport, eastern Ukraine, Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday called on Ukraine to immediately start talks on a political solution to the crisis in eastern Ukraine. Hours later, Ukraine said a border guard vessel operating in the Azov Sea was attacked by land-based forces. (AP Photo/Mstislav Chernov)
A Pro-Russian rebel prepares arms for the the assault on the positions of Ukrainian army in Donetsk airport, eastern Ukraine, Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday called on Ukraine to immediately start talks on a political solution to the crisis in eastern Ukraine. Hours later, Ukraine said a border guard vessel operating in the Azov Sea was attacked by land-based forces. (AP Photo/Mstislav Chernov)

The talks between the so-called contact group are being held Monday in Minsk, the Belarusian capital.

Speaking to students at Moscow State Institute of International Relation, Lavrov said the priority of the talks should be reaching agreement on an immediate unconditional cease-fire.

A representative of the Russia-backed separatists, Andrei Purgin, told the Interfax news agency that their priority was to win recognition of their independence in eastern Ukraine, which has a large Russian-speaking population. He said they also were willing to discuss the exchange of prisoners and a temporary cease-fire.

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