Ukraine, Russia discuss U.N. peacekeeping mission with France, Germany

 (Reuters) - The foreign ministers of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France met in Berlin on Monday to discuss the implementation of the peace plan for Ukraine and the deployment of a UN peacekeeping mission in the country’s conflict zone.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Berlin, Germany June 6, 2018. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt
Monday’s meeting was the first between the four ministers since February 2017, though lower level officials have met regularly in the past four years in the so-called Normandy format to try to resolve a separatist conflict in Ukraine, in which more than 10,000 people have been killed.
Relations between Moscow and Kiev have been tense since 2014 when a popular uprising drove a pro-Russian president from power. Russia went on to annex Crimea from Ukraine and backed a pro-Russian separatist insurgency in the country’s east.
A ceasefire agreement was signed in February 2015 in Minsk but has failed to end the violence.
Speaking at the beginning of the talks, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the ceasefire agreed in the peace plan was still violated on nearly daily basis.
“This year alone, there were thousands of ceasefire violations,” Maas said. He added that the talks would also focus on the removal of heavy weaponry and securing of minefields.
“A new issue about which we want to talk today is a UN peacekeeping mission for Eastern Ukraine,” Maas said. “From our point of view, it could help to revive the peace process.”
Maas said Russia and Ukraine had already agreed in principle on such a peacekeeping mission, but their ideas about how to implement it were still far apart.
Maas was expected to address reporters later on Monday after the end of the four-way talks.