Minsk peace talks fail
Denis Pushilin (R), representative of the separatist self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic and Vladislav Deinego, representative of the Luhansk republic, speak to the media at Minsk's International airport before peace talks in MinskVasily Fedosenko/Reuters

The peace talks between Ukrainian authorities and pro-Russian separatists in Minsk have collapsed amid raging violence in the eastern region claiming dozens of lives.

The meeting, in which representatives of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OCSE), Kiev, Moscow and pro-Russian rebels took part, ended after a bitter blame-game over the violence.

Discussions among the officials, formally known as "Contact Group", lasted for about three hours in the Belarusian capital. No date has been set for the next meeting of the group.

Denis Pushilin, one of the rebel representatives, told reporters following the meeting: "I cannot say that today's meeting was productive. We have only just managed to exchange our stances."

"The conflict, which was caused by the Ukrainian side and led to a huge civilian death toll, destruction of infrastructure and residential areas forced us to launch a counteroffensive and the line of contact has changed its boundaries."

Russian ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov and OCSE representative Heidi Tagliavini also participated in the talks.

Leonid Kuchma, who was leading the Kiev delegation, told Interfax news agency: "Aleksandr Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky, who originally signed the Minsk documents [in September], failed to attend, and their representatives only made ultimatum-like statements."

The failure of the meeting has dented hopes of a ceasefire agreement that would halt the ongoing fighting between Kiev's forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

At least 40 people, including 13 rebels, have been killed in the latest fighting. Kiev says a dozen civilians were killed apart from troops.

Despite Kiev's denial, the rebels claim control of Vuhlehirsk and Debaltseve. The claim is yet to be independently verified.