MOSCOW, January 31. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin, Germany's Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande had a telephone conversation on Saturday in the wake of a sharp deterioration in the much-troubled war-torn eastern regions of Ukraine.
"In connection with a yet another meeting of the Contact Group /for peace settlement in southeastern Ukraine/ in Minsk, the conferees expressed the hope the issues of an earliest possible ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy armaments would occupy the central place on the agenda of the consultations," the Kremlin press service said in a report.
The four-partite Contact Group began another round of talks in Minsk at around 14:00 hours GMT on Saturday.
Taking part in the round are the former President of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma, who is believed to have been appointed the plenipotentiary representative to the consultations by the incumbent President, Pyotr Poroshenko, the plenipotentiary representatives of the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics, Denis Pushilin and Vladislav Deinego, the special envoy of the European security organization OSCE, Heidi Tagliavini, and the Russian Ambassador to Ukraine, Mikhail Zurabov, who acts as a mediator at the consultations.