KIEV: The European Union today put fresh sanctions against Moscow on hold ahead of a summit to thrash out a Ukraine peace plan aimed at ending 10 months of bloodshed.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the EU would hold off implementing new individual sanctions to improve the chances of success at the four-way summit planned for Wednesday in Minsk.
"The latest peace initiative shows that things have begun to move," Fabius said in Brussels.
"The principle of the sanctions will be kept but their implementation will depend on the situation."
EU foreign ministers had been set to formally sign off on adding 19 more people to a sanctions list over Moscow's alleged backing of pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.
The announcement came as officials from Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France were to hold preparatory talks in Berlin ahead of the hoped for meeting in the Belarussian capital to push the new peace deal.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, has warned that a "number of points" still needed to be hammered out before the meeting could take place.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel flew to Washington today to discuss the European-brokered peace initiative with US 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 spiraling bloodshed in east Ukraine that has cost at least 5,400 lives since April.
Based on a largely ignored peace deal agreed in September in Minsk, the new plan may extend rebel control over territory they have seized in recent weeks, although Kiev is adamant the demarcation line agreed in September should not be shifted.
French President Francois Hollande has said the proposal includes the creation of a 50- 70-kilometer (31-44-mile) demilitarised zone around the current frontline.
German foreign ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said the Minsk talks' goal would be "a ceasefire to end the bloodshed and thus create space and time for political talks".
The issues on the table include questions about levels of regional autonomy and future elections in rebel-controlled areas, Schaefer said.
Fresh fighting over the past 24 hours between government forces and pro-Russian rebels left at least 11 civilians and nine Ukrainian troops dead, Kiev said.
Ukraine's military said that 1,500 Russian troops and convoys of military hardware had crossed into the country over the weekend.