MOSCOW (AP) -- With a new round of talks on easing the crisis in Ukraine about to start, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has called on the participants to push for a cease-fire between Ukrainian government troops and separatist forces.

Pro-Russian rebels prepare arms for the the assault on the positions of Ukrainian army in Donetsk airport, eastern Ukraine (AP Photo/Mstislav Chernov)

The talks between the so-called contact group are being held Monday in Minsk, the Belarusian capital.

Speaking to students at Moscow State Institute of International Relation, Lavrov said the priority of the talks should be reaching agreement on an immediate unconditional cease-fire.

A representative of the Russia-backed separatists, Andrei Purgin, told the Interfax news agency that their priority was to win recognition of their independence in eastern Ukraine, which has a large Russian-speaking population. He said they also were willing to discuss the exchange of prisoners and a temporary cease-fire.

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