Merkel says Russia failing to keep Ukraine pledge
Berlin: German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday Russia had failed to take steps to ease tensions in Ukraine that she had expected after a telephone conversation with President Vladimir Putin last week.
Merkel said on March 31 that Putin had told her by telephone that he had ordered the partial withdrawal of Russian troops from a sensitive region on the border with Ukraine -- a move she welcomed as a step "to stabilise the situation".
But she told parliament Wednesday that there was now little sign of Russia backing down in the standoff with its neighbour.
"The situation in Ukraine remains difficult," she said.
"And it is unfortunately not apparent in many areas how Russia is contributing to an easing of tensions."
She said Germany remained committed to dialogue with Russia.
"But on the other hand we will say loudly and clearly: Ukraine has in our view a right to choose its own path and we will insist on it," Merkel said.
"Ukraine must decide on its own fate and we want to help it."
Merkel said she backed a proposal by US Secretary of State John Kerry to hold four-way talks with Russia, Ukraine and European Union diplomats.
The German leader has been in constant contact with Putin since the outbreak in February of the crisis in Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, and advocated a negotiated settlement to the dispute.
But her tone has sharpened in recent weeks as the situation has deteriorated and she has threatened to back EU economic sanctions against Moscow if it further violates Ukraine`s borders following its annexation of the Crimean peninsula last month.
The United States accused Russia on Tuesday of sending agents to stoke a flaring secession crisis in eastern Ukraine.
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