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France urges Ukraine ceasefire as fighting intensifies

France on Friday called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine`s war-torn east, calling the upsurge in fighting barely hours after peace talks in Berlin "dreadful".

"I renew a call in the firmest manner for a ceasefire... and to return to what we had agreed on yesterday," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told AFP on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

"It`s a dreadful situation... just last night together with the British, Russian, German and Russian foreign ministers we agreed on a deal calling on everyone to withdraw their heavy weapons according to the Minsk agreement," he said, referring to a widely flouted September truce deal done in the Belarussian capital.

"Diplomats are doing their work but the rebels too must follow suit," said the minister, adding that it was pointless holding a new round of peace talks in Astana if the violence prevailed.

Talks between the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany had been due to take place in the Kazakhstan capital but they have been postponed indefinitely as the Western powers have signaled that they were not prepared to attend unless there was a halt in hostilities.

At least 41 people were killed in Ukraine`s east Thursday, one of the deadliest days in the separatist war, with a bus shelling in Donetsk as government forces abandoned their defence of the city`s strategic airport.