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The US army will provide training to Ukrainian troops battling Russian-backed separatists in the country's east beginning in March, according to US Army Europe commander Ben Hodges.
Commander Hodges also claimed Russian has "ten battalions' on the border of eastern Ukraine. He added that European leader are worried that if rebels succeed in seizing the key railway town of Debaltseve "they may shift their attention to Mariupol."
Speaking during a visit to a NATO base in north-west Poland, Commander Hodges said the planned US training mission will involve one battalion of American soldiers training three Ukrainian battalions.
"We will train them in security tasks, medical (tasks), how to operate in an environment where the Russians are jamming (communications) and how to protect (themselves) from Russian and rebel artillery," he said.
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko says his country's key position at the Minsk peace talks later today is the need to secure an "unconditional ceasefire", Reuters reports.
He added that Ukraine is prepared to introduce martial law in all regions if the current crisis in the east of the country escalates.
The leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine are attending talks in Minsk to try to resolve the crisis.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said any agreement on resolving the conflict in Ukraine must protect the rights of all citizens living in the country.
At a joint news conference with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, Mr Lavrov said there could only be a political situation to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has killed more than 5,000 people.
Mr Lavrov also accused the Ukraine military of trying to gain more ground in east Ukraine to "use as leverage" during peace talks in Minsk.
He added that control over the Russia-Ukraine border could not be used as a condition of peace as that issue needed to be agreed with pro-separatist rebels.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will take part in the Minsk talks on the situation in eastern Ukraine, Interfax news agency reports, citing a Kremlin spokesperson.
A Russian diplomatic source has said a peace deal on Ukraine is 70 per cent likely to be reached at talks today being held in Minsk, reports Reuters.
The source added that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine's leader Petro Poroshenko were not "travelling to Minsk for no reason".
At least 19 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in rebel attacks near the key railway town of Debaltseve, according to a military spokesman.
A four-way summit in Minsk aimed at resolving the Ukraine crisis is still very likely to go ahead as scheduled later today despite a number of unresolved issues, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.
The planned meeting between leaders from Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany comes after rockets killed more than 10 civilians and soldiers in Ukrainian government-held territory yesterday.
At least one person was killed when a shell hit a bus station in the centre of rebel-controlled Donetsk city, east Ukraine, a witness told Reuters.
The body of a man could be seen behind the wheel of a minibus after a shell fell through the roof of the station, burning up the vehicle and another beside it, he said.
Emergency services at the scene said another person had died in hospital following the attack, while another two were seriously wounded. There was no immediate comment from rebel authorities or the Kiev-controlled regional administration.
The White House said President Barack Obama urged Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call to agree to a peace deal.
"If Russia continues its aggressive actions in Ukraine, including by sending troops, weapons, and financing to support the separatists, the costs for Russia will rise," the White House statement added.
The Kremlin, in its statement about the call, said Putin and Obama highlighted the need for the need for a political solution to the "internal" conflict in Ukraine.
The Kremlin also said the two leaders also noted the necessity to safeguard the rights of inhabitants of all Ukrainian regions, including Russian-speakers in the east.
France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine are due to hold a new round of talks today in Minsk to try and find a political solution to the conflict in Ukraine.
More than 5,400 people have been killed in the fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia rebels since April 2014. The detailed proposals have not been released but the plan is thought to include a demilitarised zone of 50-70km (31-44 miles) around the current front line.
Latest ITV News reports
Video footage recorded from Kramatorsk, deep inside Ukrainian-government controlled territory, shows rockets landing on civilian areas.
Video footage appears to show the moment a shell strikes a community soup kitchen in eastern Ukraine.