Merkel urges Putin to push for dialogue in Ukraine

BERLIN (AFP) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday to push for a "constructive dialogue" to defuse the crisis in Ukraine, her office said.

Ms Merkel held telephone talks with the Russian leader asking him to "push at his end for a constructive dialogue between the opposition and government" in Ukraine, it said in a statement.

"The violence must not return. Ukraine needs to have a working government quickly. All parties must accept their responsibility to stabilise the country and protect the rights of citizens," the statement added.

However the Kremlin, in a carefully worded statement released after the call rejected outside interference in Ukraine's affairs.

"Regarding the situation in Ukraine, it has been stressed that any outside interference is unacceptable," the Kremlin said.

Ms Merkel also phoned embattled Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, urging him to "continue dialogue" with protesters.

She also praised the scrapping Tuesday of anti-protest laws adopted on January 16 that infuriated the protesters and deepened the crisis.

However Ms Merkel warned against fresh violence, calling for the protection of citizens' rights and a democratic solution to the crisis.

She said "the EU and Germany are willing to provide assistance." Ms Merkel has not hidden her support for the protesters, saying earlier Wednesday "they are fighting for the same values that guide the European Union, and that is why they must be listened to."

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