Merkel urges Putin to help end violence in Ukraine

A shell hole is seen in front of a school in Avdiivka, Donetsk area, Ukraine, on Monday. Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists have both blamed each other for the latest flare-up as the two-year-old Minsk peace deal has merely locked the two s
A shell hole is seen in front of a school in Avdiivka, Donetsk area, Ukraine, on Monday. Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists have both blamed each other for the latest flare-up as the two-year-old Minsk peace deal has merely locked the two sides in a stalemate.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

German and Russian leaders agree during phone call on need for new ceasefire efforts

BERLIN • German leader Angela Merkel has urged Russia's Vla- dimir Putin in a telephone call to use his influence on separatists in eastern Ukraine to stop the violence there, a German government spokesman said.

The two also agreed on the need for new ceasefire efforts, said Mr Steffen Seibert, the spokesman.

Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists have both blamed each other for the latest flare-up in a conflict that has killed some 10,000 people since April 2014.

"The German Chancellor and the Russian President agreed that new efforts must be made to secure a ceasefire and asked foreign ministers and their advisers to remain in close contact," said Mr Seibert.

Dr Merkel and French President Francois Hollande have long tried to broker an end to the conflict but the two-year-old Minsk peace deal has merely locked the two sides in a stalemate.

The United States and European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia. Speaking in Warsaw where she was visiting yesterday, Dr Merkel said sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine conflict cannot yet be lifted as the situation on the ground is still unacceptable.

Ukraine and Nato accuse the Kremlin of fuelling the conflict by supporting separatists with troops and weapons - a charge it denies.

The Kremlin, in its description of yesterday's Merkel-Putin call, said "serious concerns were expressed in connection with the escalation of the armed conflict resulting in human losses".

The EU on Monday insisted all parties must fully implement the Minsk ceasefire accords to restore peace in Ukraine, after US President Donald Trump stoked fresh concerns he could take a softer line on Russia. The White House also raised eyebrows by referring to "Ukraine's long-running conflict with Russia" - a framing of the situation that former national security adviser Susan Rice publicly criticised as a "distortion of... recent history".

Russia annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea in March 2014 and has supported separatists in the east of the country. Russia annexed Crimea after pro-EU protesters ousted pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych, sparking a conflict which has cost nearly 10,000 lives and plunged EU ties with Moscow into a deep freeze.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said yesterday the US understood that restoring Kiev's control over eastern Ukraine would not solve all the problems in the country, Tass news agency reported.

He added that Mr Trump's efforts to get to grips with the situation in Ukraine represented a"qualitative improvement" on the work of his predecessor Barack Obama.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2017, with the headline 'Merkel urges Putin to help end violence in Ukraine'. Print Edition | Subscribe