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Aug 23, 10:10 AM EDT

Russia, Germany, France raise alarm over fighting in Ukraine


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AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

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MOSCOW (AP) -- The leaders of Russia, Germany and France have raised the alarm about a recent uptick in fighting in eastern Ukraine, the Kremlin said on Tuesday.

President Vladimir Putin's office said on Tuesday Putin, Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande discussed Ukraine in a telephone call earlier in the day and condemned recent fighting in eastern Ukraine.

The conflict in Ukraine's industrial heartland between Russia-backed separatists and government troops has killed more than 9,500 people since it began in 2014. Despite 2015 peace accords signed in Minsk, Belarus, which initially helped to halt the fighting and then lower its intensity, international monitors have reported more clashes in the past weeks, some involving heavy weaponry.

Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine are parties to the Minsk accords.

The three leaders will meet face-to-face in early September to discuss ways to deal with the crisis, the Kremlin said on Tuesday, but did not say whether Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko would be invited as well.

The Kremlin said in Tuesday's read-out that Putin mentioned to Hollande and Merkel what Russia refers to as foiled terrorist attacks in the Russia-occupied Crimea. Russian intelligence said earlier this month that one of its employees and a soldier were killed in separate incidents in Crimea described as foiled terrorist attacks Armyansk within miles of the de-facto border between Crimea and Ukraine.

Kiev's "penchant to such forceful actions," Putin said on Tuesday, "harms the Minsk process and cooperation" of the four-party talks.

An Associated Press reporter in the government-controlled town of Maryinka on the frontline with the rebel stronghold of Donetsk heard heavy artillery throughout the night on Monday and early on Tuesday.

The town was shrouded in smoke Tuesday morning from the multiple fires from artillery shells that landed there during the night's fighting. Local residents say hostilities never really fully stopped there but the fighting has been particularly intensively in the past couple of weeks.

"It's quiet now, and we are outside," Maryinka resident Nonna said outside her home Monday evening. "But there's fighting during daytime, even kids don't go outside for a walk, they're scared."

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Mstyslav Chernov contributed to this report from Maryinka, Ukraine.

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