Ukraine says eastern rebels must lay down arms as condition for talks

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KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine's defense minister says the government will only restart cease-fire negotiations with pro-Russian insurgents in the country's east once the rebels lay down their weapons.

Valery Heletey's statement, posted online Tuesday, comes amid growing confidence among government forces after they drove the insurgent militia from their stronghold of Slovyansk.

Last week, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko promised cease-fire talks no later than that Saturday, but a series of military successes by the Ukrainian army may have changed minds in Kiev. Instead, on Saturday, Ukrainian troops routed the rebels in Slovyansk, forcing hundreds of insurgents to regroup in the regional capital, Donetsk.

A 10-day cease-fire that ended in late June was punctuated by frequent clashes and provided no progress in reaching a negotiated settlement.

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