With another phone call, French and German leaders try to salvage faltering Ukrainian truce

The French president says he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have spoken with the leaders of Ukraine and Russia about the cease-fire that has been faltering amid fierce fighting over the eastern town of Debaltseve.

Ukrainian forces began abandoning Debaltseve on Wednesday after weeks of heavy fighting against Russia-backed separatists. Control of the town is a significant strategic gain for the rebels because it is a railway junction and straddles the most direct route between the separatist region's two major cities.

The battle for Debaltseve had continued to rage despite a cease-fire that came into effect Sunday in eastern Ukraine. French President Francois Hollande says the phone call Thursday morning touched upon cease-fire violations and their consequences.