Receive Breaking News updates as they occur
By Andrei Makhovsky and Richard Balmforth MINSK/KIEV (Reuters) - Peace talks on Ukraine collapsed on Saturday after just over four hours with no tangible progress towards a new ceasefire but with Ukraine's representative and separatist envoys angrily accusing each other of sabotaging the meeting. Ukraine's representative, former president Leonid Kuchma, left the talks in Minsk, Belarus, telling Interfax news agency that separatist officials had undermined the meeting by making ultimatums and refusing "to discuss a plan of measures for a quick ceasefire and a pull-back of heavy weapons". Denis Pushilin, one of the separatist officials, told the Russian news agency RIA that they were ready for dialogue "but not ready for ultimatums from Kiev while shelling by their forces is going on in the background of towns in the Donbass (industrialised eastern Ukraine)". The meeting of the "contact group", which also involves a Russian envoy and an official from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, took place in the Belarussian capital even as fighting between Kiev's forces and the Russian-backed rebels raged on in Ukraine's east, claiming more civilian and military lives.
By Paul Carrel and Jussi Rosendahl BERLIN/HELSINKI (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel ruled out a debt writedown for Greece on Saturday, and a European Central Bank policymaker threatened to cut off funding to Greek banks if Athens does not agree to renew its bailout package. The euro zone's paymaster and the ECB are both taking a tough line with Greece's new leftist government, whose leader swept to victory last Sunday promising that five years of austerity, "humiliation and suffering" were over. Alexis Tsipras has also promised to renegotiate agreements with the European Commission, ECB and International Monetary Fund "troika" and write off much of Greece's 320 billion euro ($360 billion) debt, which at more than 175 percent of gross domestic product is the world's second-highest after Japan.