Angela Merkel called on the Kremlin to unwind its recent military build-up near eastern Ukraine, the Chancellor’s office said in a statement on Thursday.
Recent clashes between pro-Russian separatists and government forces have raised fears of an escalation of conflict in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region.
During a phone call, Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin also discussed other topics, including the imprisonment of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny.
What did the Kremlin say?
Following the call, the Kremlin also issued a statement indicating that the two leaders had “expressed their concerns at the escalation of tensions in the south-east of Ukraine”.
“Vladimir Putin has drawn attention to Kiev’s provocative actions, which have recently deliberately exacerbated the situation on the front line,” the statement said.
The deputy head of the Russian presidential administration, Dmitri Kozak, was quoted Thursday by the TASS news agency as saying that any major military hostility could mean “the beginning of the end of Ukraine”. He argued that Russia would be forced to defend its citizens in eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian President visited troops in Donbass on Thursday after conflict escalates
What is the situation in Donbass?
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy visited Donbass on Thursday. He said he was “going to the scene of the escalation”, adding that “Ukraine needs peace and will do anything for it”.
Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of escalating tensions between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists. On March 26 alone, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) recorded hundreds of ceasefire violations.
President Zelenskiy also visited troops in more advanced positions
The Ukrainian government has repeatedly called on Russia to withdraw its troops from the border, with the Kremlin responding that internal troop movements are a domestic issue and asserting that it has the right to protect Russian-speaking citizens of Donbass if the ceasefire is reached. the fragile fire does not hold.
The European Union, NATO and the United States recently condemned the strengthening of the Russian army on the border.
The conflict has killed at least 14,000 people since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, according to the Ukrainian government.
fb / msh (TBEN, dpa, Reuters, TBEN)