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Kerry heads for crunch Ukraine talks as tensions mount

Armed men wearing military fatigues gather around Armoured Personnel Carriers as they stand guard outside the regional state building seized by pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk on April 16, 2014US Secretary of State John Kerry left Wednesday for Geneva for high-stakes talks on Ukraine, armed with the threat of more sanctions against Moscow if diplomacy fails, as tensions on the ground escalated sharply. The US and the European Union will hold their first four-way talks with Ukraine and Russia on Thursday to address a worsening crisis, although US officials have set low expectations for the meeting, still smarting from a slew of failures in past weeks. With Ukraine increasingly threatened with a split between its Russian-speaking east and EU-leaning west, US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said it was hoped the talks could help de-escalate tensions that have risen markedly in the past 24 hours. Kerry will sit down with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, his Ukrainian counterpart Andriy Deshchytsya and the chief diplomat of the European Union, Catherine Ashton, for what are likely to be prickly talks.

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