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Ukraine in Russia sanctions appeal

Ukraine has urged the European Union (EU) to stay united in keeping up sanctions pressure on Russia over the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The appeal was made as leaders from EU countries gathered for a two-day summit.

Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said today that Russian president Vladimir Putin is trying to divide Europe over Ukraine and that this would be a "disaster for the free world".

Russia and the conflict in Ukraine figure high on the agenda of the summit in Brussels but the leaders are unlikely to announce any new sanctions.

The EU has visa bans and asset freezes in place targeting 150 individuals, including high-ranking Russians, and 37 entities such as banks, companies and rebel groups.

If Russia divides opinion on sanctions, "this will be the biggest success story for president Putin," Mr Yatsenyuk said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her focus at the EU summit would be to ensure unity on the issue of sanctions and the cease-fire agreement.

"I will work this evening so that the length of the sanctions is guided by the Minsk package and its fulfilment," she told the German parliament before leaving for Brussels.

If cracks appear in the common stand, "this will be the biggest success story for President Putin," Mr Yatsenyuk said. "I strongly reject any debates on easing of sanctions," he added.

He also expressed optimism about European backing for his government's call to the UN for international peacekeepers to be sent to eastern Ukraine.

"Everyone wants to get peace in Europe. One of the tools to reach this peace is to deploy peacekeepers," he said.

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