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Europe

Germany's Angela Merkel warns 'no alternative' to peace in eastern Ukraine

Amid soaring tensions in eastern Ukraine's conflict, the German chancellor has urged "immediate" steps to prevent more violence. But Russia said the Trump administration's latest decision could lead to "new bloodshed."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday issued a joint statement calling on warring parties in eastern Ukraine to cease hostilities and implement key parts of a deconfliction agreement.

The European leaders urged both sides to take "immediate and verifiable steps to remedy" the latest escalation, which has witnessed growing ceasefire violations this week after Russia withdrew officers from a joint coordination center and the US authorized shipments of lethal weapons to Ukraine.

Read more: Power struggle in eastern Ukraine threatens peace process

"It is necessary to implement agreements on disengagement and the withdrawal of heavy weapons behind the agreed withdrawal lines, withdrawal of tanks, artillery and mortars to the agreed storage sites," said the statement.

"Other aspects of the Minsk agreements, like the withdrawal of foreign armed formations or the return of control over the Russian-Ukrainian border, need to be addressed seriously as well."

'New bloodshed'

Over the past week, Merkel spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in a bid to ease tensions in the conflict between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia rebels.

According to her spokesperson, Putin agreed to return officers to the ceasefire coordination center if a list of conditions were met, including a prisoner swap between conflicting parties.

Read more: Ukraine arrests official who doubled as 'agent of Russian intelligence'

However, on Saturday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that the Trump administration's decision to send Javelin anti-tank missiles and other lethal weapons to Ukraine could lead to "new bloodshed."

Russian President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Angela Merkel he would send new officers, but only if certain demands were met

Russian President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Angela Merkel he would send new officers, but only if certain demands were met

'No alternative'

Under an internationally backed agreement known as Minsk II, conflicting parties are expected to stick to a full ceasefire, withdraw heavy weapons from the front line to establish a security zone and release all hostages on the basis of an "all for all" exchange.

In their statement on Saturday, both Merkel and Macron warned that "there is no alternative to an exclusively peaceful solution to the conflict."

Read more: Is NATO doing enough to pressure Russia over Ukraine?

In 2014, pro-Russia rebels launched an armed insurgency in eastern Ukraine in the wake of Moscow's military intervention and subsequent annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in an internationally condemned referendum.

More than 10,000 people have been killed and half a million children affected by the devastating conflict, according to UN figures.

ls/tj (AFP, Reuters)

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