Stop playing with people's lives in eastern Ukraine, Germany tells Russia

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock accuses Russia of being irresponsible towards civilian lives in Ukraine. PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS (REUTERS) - German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock accused Russia on Monday (Feb 21) of playing an "irresponsible" game with the civilian population of eastern Ukraine and urged it to return to the negotiating table.

Sporadic shelling across the line dividing Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists in the east has intensified since Thursday.

"I urgently call on the Russian government, on the Russian president: Don't play with human lives," Ms Baerbock told reporters after arriving for a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Brussels.

"What we have seen over the last 72 hours in terms of attacks, violent disputes is really concerning," she said. "The responsibility lies with the Russian government which is why I call urgently on the Russian government: Come back to the negotiating table. It is in your hands."

The European Union foreign ministers will discuss the situation in Ukraine after France said United States President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin had agreed in principle to a summit over Ukraine.

Western countries say a Russian troop build-up near Ukraine is a prelude to an invasion, but the EU is supporting the latest attempt to arrange further talks, the bloc's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.

"Summit meetings, at the level of leaders, at the level of ministers, whatever format, whatever way of talking and sitting at the table and trying to avoid a war, is badly needed," Mr Borrell said in Brussels.

"We will support anything that can make diplomatic conversations the best way, the only way to look for a solution to the crisis," he said.

French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune told LCI TV on Monday that no date had been set yet for a summit.

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