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Merkel urges Russia to support Ukraine ceasefire during 'compromise' Moscow visit

Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on Russia to support the ceasefire in Ukraine, as she met with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. The talks came after the leaders honored Soviet soldiers killed during World War II.

After a wreath-laying ceremony at the grave of the Unknown Soldier, the German chancellor met with her Russian counterpart at the Kremlin where she stressed the importance of cooperation, in particular with regard to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

"We have learned from bitter experiences, difficult situations - and now we have to overcome one by peaceful and diplomatic means," Merkel said after the ceremony, referring explicitly to Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin remarked Sunday during a news conference with Merkel that the latest Ukraine ceasefire agreed in Minsk was moving forward, "despite problems," and that it had been quieter in Ukraine recently.

Merkel and Putin visited the grave of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow

Merkel and Putin visited the grave of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow

"We still do not have a ceasefire," Merkel countered, speaking after her talks with Putin.

Relations between Russia and Germany remain at a low point over Ukraine, in particular over the sanctions imposed by the West - backed by Germany - over Moscow's backing of pro-Russia rebels in eastern Ukraine.

'Everyone was here we wanted to see'

Russia on Saturday staged a huge parade to mark the 70th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany, but most Western countries boycotted the festivities over Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its continued support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

In February, Putin hosted Merkel and French leader Francois Hollande for crunch talks over Ukraine, in what was the German leader's first Russian visit since the start of the crisis.

In recent months Merkel has played a key negotiation role in the Ukraine crisis, acting as a go-between for an isolated Kremlin and the West.

Putin, who watched Saturday's parade seated next to Chinese President Xi Jinping, shrugged off the Western snub.

"Everyone we wanted to see was here," he said in televised remarks Saturday evening.

But he also thanked the Soviet Union's key WWII allies - the United States, Britain and France - for their "contribution" to victory as well as all those who battled against the Nazis in Germany.

Speaking to Czech President Milos Zeman, one of the few European leaders who flew to Moscow for the festivities, Putin said on Saturday he was ready for detente with West.

"It was not us who initiated the chill in relations with Europe but I hope that thanks to politicians like you we will manage not only to revive them completely but to also move forward," Putin said.

Portraits held up for veterans in Moscow

The Czech leftist leader, for his part, said he was confident that "normal ties will replace the chill."

Like Putin, many Russians shrugged off the Western no-show as they celebrated Victory Day well into the night, singing war-era songs and feting veterans.

On Saturday, over half a million people marched through central Moscow with portraits of their relatives who fought in the war, in the biggest march during Putin's 15-year tenure as leader.

Putin joined the procession on Red Square, carrying a portrait of his naval veteran father.

glb/cmk (AP, Reuters, dpa)

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