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By Andrei Makhovsky and Richard Balmforth MINSK/KIEV (Reuters) - A new round of peace talks were about to start on the Ukraine crisis on Saturday, even as fighting between Kiev government forces and pro-Russian separatists raged in the east, claiming civilian and military lives. A Reuters reporter in the Belarussian capital saw the main participants in the so-called 'contact group' -- including Ukrainian former president Leonid Kuchma, a Russian diplomat and rebel officials -- arrive at Minsk airport and then drive off towards the city. Heavy shelling continued in Ukraine's eastern regions as the separatists sought to tighten a circle around government forces clinging on to control of the strategic rail and road junction of Debaltseve. Regional police chief Vyacheslav Abroskin, in a Facebook post, said 12 civilians had been killed on Saturday by separatist artillery shelling of the town, which lies to the north-east of the big city of Donetsk.