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Ukraine to extend truce with Russian-backed separatists as new peace talks loom

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KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine will continue upholding a truce with Russian-backed separatists following a day largely free of exchanges of fire between the warring sides, a military spokesman in Kiev said Wednesday.

Andriy Lysenko said there have been attacks on government positions over the previous day, but noted a significant reduction in their quantity. Rebels in turn accused Ukrainian forces of sporadic violations of the truce that began Tuesday.

Military authorities have indicated that the truce is seen as a confidence-building exercise and that heavy weaponry could be pulled back from the front if fighting stops for several days.

The cessation in hostilities follows a proposal last week by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to hold a "day of silence" as a bid to revive a largely ignored cease-fire deal reached in September.

PHOTO: A man walks past a mortar impact site outside a damaged building in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014. Government troops and Russian-backed separatists largely suspended hostilities in east Ukraine Tuesday in a fresh attempt to revive a largely ignored cease-fire deal. (AP Photo/Balint Szlanko)
A man walks past a mortar impact site outside a damaged building in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014. Government troops and Russian-backed separatists largely suspended hostilities in east Ukraine Tuesday in a fresh attempt to revive a largely ignored cease-fire deal. (AP Photo/Balint Szlanko)

A new round of peace talks is expected this week, although no date has been set.

Speaking in the separatist stronghold of Donetsk, senior rebel representative Denis Pushilin said a videoconference call to discuss preparations for the negotiations was scheduled for Wednesday but fell through after Ukraine pulled out.

Pushilin said the cancellation of the call could harm the prospects of the peace process.

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Balint Szlanko in Donetsk, Ukraine, contributed to this report.

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