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Live: Blinken, Lavrov to meet next week over Ukraine crisis, barring a Russian invasion

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US Secretary of Antony Blinken has accepted an invitation to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov late next week provided Russia does not invade Ukraine, the US State Department said on Thursday. Follow this page for live updates from FRANCE 24.

08:01 am Paris time: Ukrainian military, pro-Russian separatists trade blame for shelling in eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists accused the Ukrainian military of shelling in eastern Ukraine on Friday, the Interfax news agency reported, a day after separatists and the military traded blame for shelling that struck the town of Stanytsia Luhanska, including a shell that injured three people at a kindergarten building.

FRANCE 24’s Catherine Norris Trent reports from Kyiv.

07:15 am Paris time: Ukraine’s military says it has recorded dozens of ceasefire violations by pro-Russian separatists

The Ukrainian military has recorded 60 ceasefire violations by pro-Russian separatists over the past 24 hours, it said on Friday, with one soldier injured.

Incidents of shelling across the line dividing government forces and separatists increased sharply on Thursday in what Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called a "big provocation".

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In a report, the military said separatists opened fire on more than 10 settlements, using heavy artillery, mortars and a tank.

6:02 am Paris time: Kremlin says Russian infantry units back from Crimea have arrived at bases

Several Russian mechanised infantry units have returned to their bases in the regions of Dagestan and Chechnya after completing drills in Crimea, the Interfax news agency cited Russia’s defence ministry as saying on Friday.

Russia said this week it has started pulling back some troops from areas adjacent to Ukraine. But Kyiv and the West have disputed that, saying some units and equipment appeared to be replaced by others.

Separately, Interfax cited the ministry as saying that a train loaded with tanks of the Western military district has departed an undisclosed location to deliver them back to their base in the Nizhny Novgorod province.

5:48 am Paris time: German FM says Russia putting European peace at risk with ‘Cold War demands’

Russia is putting Europe’s security at risk with demands that hark back to the Cold War, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Friday, ahead of the annual Munich Security Conference set to be dominated by the Ukraine crisis.

“With an unprecedented deployment of troops on the border with Ukraine and Cold War demands, Russia is challenging fundamental principles of the European peace order,” Baerbock said in a statement.

Moscow needs to show “serious steps towards de-escalation”, she added.

Dozens of world leaders and top diplomats are descending on the southern German city of Munich from Friday for three days of talks on defence and security matters.

5:38 am Paris time: Russian-backed rebels say they were shelled again by Ukrainian military

Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine accused Kyiv government forces of shelling a village with artillery on Friday, the Interfax news agency reported.

Kyiv and the rebels blamed each other for escalating tensions after artillery and mortar attacks on Thursday, prompting fears that Russia, which has massed over 100,000 troops near Ukrane’s borders, could get involved.

The Kremlin said on Thursday it was “deeply concerned” with the flare-up in Ukraine and was watching the situation closely.

According to the Interfax report, the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic said the shelling targeted the Petrivske village in the breakaway region at 5:30 am (0330 GMT).

Kyiv and the pro-Russian separatists have been at war for eight years and the ceasefire between the sides is routinely violated, but the intensity of fighting increased notably this week.

5:14 am Paris time: G7 nations ‘ready for serious dialogue’ with Russia on Ukraine, Germany says

The Group of Seven most developed nations are prepared to have “a serious dialogue” with Russia on the Ukraine crisis, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Friday, on the eve of crunch talks in Munich with her G7 counterparts.

“We will use Munich to send out a message of unity: we are ready for a serious dialogue on security for all,” Baerbock said in a statement. Russia is not scheduled to attend the annual Munich Security Conference, which opens Friday and runs until Sunday.

4:17 am Paris time: Biden to speak with transatlantic leaders on Friday

The White House said Thursday evening that US President Joe Biden would speak with transatlantic leaders on Friday about Russia’s troop buildup on the border of Ukraine.

Earlier Thursday, the office of Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Biden would be hosting the call with the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, Britain, the European Union, and NATO.

2:55 am Paris time: Blinken to meet Russia’s Lavrov late next week, US says

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has accepted an invitation to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov late next week provided Russia does not invade Ukraine, the US State Department said on Thursday.

Blinken said earlier on Thursday he had sent a letter to Lavrov proposing a meeting next week in Europe.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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