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Putin, Merkel and Hollande begin Ukraine peace talks: Kremlin

Putin, Merkel and Hollande begin Ukraine peace talks: Kremlin Putin, Merkel and Hollande begin Ukraine peace talks: Kremlin

 German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and their Russian host Vladimir Putin on Friday began talks seen as a desperate bid to avoid an escalation of violence in eastern Ukraine, a Kremlin representative said, AFP reports.

"The talks have begun," a Kremlin representative told AFP, saying the leaders were now conducting negotiations without their aides.

Merkel and Hollande flew to Moscow following a day of talks in the Ukrainian capital Kiev on Thursday.

The European duo's mission is widely seen as a last-ditch attempt to prevent the 10-month conflict in eastern Ukraine from spiralling out of control and heading in an increasingly dangerous direction as Washington is considering whether to send lethal weapons to Kiev.

Merkel arrived in the Russian capital for the first time since the Ukraine crisis began more than a year ago.

Hollande last travelled to Russia in December when he made a surprise stopover in a Moscow airport in an attempt to defuse mounting tensions over Ukraine.

Many analysts have said time is running out for global powers to negotiate a solution to wind down the conflict that has already claimed more than 5,300 lives.

Kiev and the West accuse the Kremlin of sending troops and sophisticated weapons across the border and analysts warn that the conflict may turn into a proxy war between Russia and the West if the United States gets involved militarily.

Ahead of the Moscow trip the German leader played down hopes of a rapid end to the surging violence.

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