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Pro-Russian rebels softened their demand for full independence Monday, saying they would respect Ukraine’s sovereignty in exchange for autonomy — a shift that reflects Moscow’s desire to strike a deal at a new round of peace talks. The insurgents’ platform, released at the start of Monday’s negotiations in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, represented a significant change in their vision for the future of Ukraine’s eastern–mainly Russian-speaking–region. It remains unclear, however, whether the talks can reach a compromise amid the brutal fighting that has continued in eastern Ukraine.

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