BERLIN (Reuters) - The leaders of Russia and Ukraine discussed with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the French President preparations to hold elections in an eastern Ukrainian area hit by a pro-Russian insurrection, according to the German government.
Progress on implementing the Minsk peace accords, negotiated by Berlin and Paris, has stalled. The elections are a key step in the agreement designed to end a conflict that has killed more than 9,000 people since April, 2014.
Moscow and Kiev accuse each other of failing to stick to the deal, which also includes restoring Kiev's control over the whole border with Russia and the withdrawal of heavy weaponry from the conflict zone.
"In the centre of the consultations were security questions and the preparations for local elections in the conflict areas in eastern Ukraine," said German government spokesman Steffen Seibert in a statement.
"The participants on the call agreed to intensify their cooperation in both areas to swiftly achieve progress."
The EU imposed sanctions on Russia after Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014 and stepped them up later that year when pro-Russian rebels seized territory and fought Ukrainian troops in eastern Ukraine. Russia denies Western accusations it has supplied equipment and troops to the rebels.
The conference call, including Merkel, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and France's Francois Hollande took place late on Monday.
In a constellation called the Normandy Format, Germany and France have repeatedly tried to push Russia and Ukraine towards resolving the conflict.
Reporting by Madeline Chambers; editing by Ralph Boulton