KIEV, Feb 9 : German Chancellor Angela Merkel was on Monday to brief US President Barack Obama on the latest peace plan for Ukraine ahead of a four-way summit aimed at ending 10 months of bloodshed.
Foreign ministry officials from Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France were due to hold a preparatory meeting in Berlin after leaders agreed to push for the key meeting on a new peace deal on Wednesday in Minsk, the capital of Belarus.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, warned that a "number of points" still needed to be hammered out before the meeting could take place.
Meanwhile, Merkel flew to Washington to discuss a European-brokered peace initiative with President Barack Obama in the latest leg of a frantic diplomatic push to stop the conflict escalating as the White House mulls supplying weapons to Kiev.
The latest peace bid is being billed as a last-ditch effort to halt the spiralling bloodshed in east Ukraine that has already cost at least 5,400 lives.
Fresh fighting over the past 24 hours between government forces and pro-Russian rebels left at least seven civilians and nine Ukrainian troops dead, Kiev said.
Separatists told AFP that a munitions factory was hit as heavy shelling echoed around the rebel stronghold of Donetsk.
In a four-way telephone talk on Sunday Putin, Merkel, Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko and French leader Francois Hollande floated the summit as a the next step to finding a "comprehensive settlement" to end the conflict, Berlin said.
Merkel and Hollande have ramped up their push for peace in recent days, jetting to Kiev first for talks with Poroshenko and then to Moscow to meet with Putin, who the West accuses of masterminding the violence.
A previous peace deal agreed in Minsk in September has been largely ignored, with fighting escalating in recent weeks as the rebels push further into government-held territory.
Talks ahead of talks
Wrangling at the meeting in Berlin later Monday afternoon is expected to be intense as deputy foreign ministers lay the ground for the leaders' summit.
"Our principal objective is to prepare the elements for a document that is acceptable to Ukraine," Olexiy Makeyev, a senior Ukrainian foreign ministry official heading to the meeting, told AFP.
One major sticking point is thought to be whether rebels are handed control over territory they have seized in recent weeks, with Kiev adamant that a demarcation line agreed in September should not be shifted. ?AFP