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Richard von Weizsaecker, who died Saturday aged 94, was the first president of a reunited Germany and played a leading role in helping the country face up to its Nazi past. Chancellor Angela Merkel called his death "a great loss for Germany" and said his stirring speech in 1985 was "a necessary and clear statement that was significant for our German self-understanding". Germany's current President Joachim Gauck said Weizsaecker had been a "great human being and an outstanding head of state". Weizsaecker began his military service in 1938, was wounded several times and was close by when one of his two brothers was killed early on in the war.
Peace talks to thrash out a truce agreement between pro-Russian rebels and Ukraine ended without a deal Saturday, Kiev's representative at the talks in Minsk said. Former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma told Interfax Ukraine news agency the talks had been "thwarted" after top rebel leaders stayed away and their negotiators refused to discuss a plan for an immediate ceasefire. The negotiator for the rebel Donetsk People's Republic, Denis Pushilin, however, blamed Kiev for causing the collapse of the talks and said insurgent leaders would only sign a deal if Kiev's forces halt fire first, Russian news wires reported.