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Pro-Russian separatists vowed on Friday to push their latest offensive in eastern Ukraine further if truce talks with Kiev's pro-Western leaders fail as the bitter conflict killed another 19 civilians. Plans for the negotiations in the Belarussian capital Minsk were announced on Thursday, raising hopes of dialogue after the collapse of a September truce in a nine-month war that has killed over 5,100 people, according to the United Nations. "Should the negotiations collapse... the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics reserve the right to pursue their offensive until the entire Donetsk and Lugansk regions are freed" of Ukrainian troops, the rebel regions' main negotiators said in a joint statement. The urgent new round of talks in Minsk that had been agreed for Friday under pressure from European envoys was postponed due to disagreements over who should represent the rebel camp.
By Aleksandar Vasovic and Andrei Makhovsky DONETSK, Ukraine/MINSK (Reuters) - Civilians were killed on both sides in heavy fighting in eastern Ukraine on Friday, while an attempt to reopen peace talks in neighboring Belarus was aborted before it began. Rebel delegates flew to the Belarus capital Minsk, only to announce that no talks would take place on Friday and they were flying straight back to Moscow. Any talks would be the first since a five-month-old ceasefire collapsed with a new rebel advance last week. The main rebel stronghold Donetsk echoed to the sound of heavy artillery fire, including salvoes from multiple rocket launchers and heavier thuds from artillery coming from the direction of the airport, a constant battlefield.