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Poroshenko: Russia trying to drive wedge between European states

The Ukrainian president has urged Europe not to fall victim to Russian blackmail. Some in Germany view Moscow as essential to solving the refugee and Syrian crises.

Russia is trying to undermine a common European stance on Ukraine and sanctions, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said in an interview with the German widely-read daily "Bild" on Wednesday.

Poroshenko, who met with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Monday, said Russia continues to back separatists in eastern Ukraine and build up its forces along the border. Russia was not living up to its

obligations under the Minsk agreements,

he said.

Watch video 26:04

Petro Poroshenko on Conflict Zone (11.11.2015)

The comments came as Merkel on Tuesday phoned Russian President Vladimir Putin to urge him to use his influence on rebels in eastern Ukraine to implement a ceasefire and allow OSCE monitors in the conflict zone.

Poroshenko and Merkel agreed on Monday that sanctions against Russia for its annexation of Crimea and support for rebels in eastern Ukraine would continue until the Minsk accords were implemented.

Russia denies backing rebels and argues Kyiv must implement its part of the Minsk accords, including key constitutional reforms and local elections.

Maintaining consensus

While Germany and its

partners in the West

have maintained a united front on sanctions, the basis of that consensus has been under constant pressure. Europe faces a growing refugee crisis that threatens to even unseat Merkel, and Russia has carved out a pivotal role in ending the conflict in Syria.

The twin refugee and Syria problems in which Russia is needed, as well as the economic toll sanctions are having on sluggish European economies, have long had Ukraine

concerned that Western pressure on Russia could wane with time.
Watch video 02:34

VW continues to invest in Russia

But Poroshenko warned that Europe must not be the "victim of Putin's blackmail" by following the logic that without him the conflict in Syria cannot be resolved.

"Everything that happens in the world is directly or indirectly related to Russian aggression," Poroshenko said, insisting that sanctions must remain. "Russia wants to open a wedge between European states, that is the goal," he said.

Poroshenko said Russia was using

hybrid warfare against Germany

- including information operations - to confuse and divide opinions and undermine responses to its actions.

Meanwhile, some German politicians appear to be increasingly at odds with Poroshenko's assessment of Russia's role in the world.

Seehofer goes to Moscow

In a controversial move, Horst Seehofer, the state premier of Bavaria and head of Merkel's Bavarian sister party (CSU), headed on Wednesday to Moscow, where he will meet with Putin during a two-day visit.

In an interview with Russian media TASS, Seehofer said Russia was critical to solving the world's problems, from the refugee crisis to the fight against terror.

The Bavarian premier, who has clashed with Merkel over refugee policy, also took aim at sanctions against Russia for the impact they were having on the Bavarian economy.

Deutschland Treffen Horst Seehofer Angela Merkel

Seehofer (R) and Merkel have clashed over refugee policy.

The German Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt (CSU) said on Wednesday the goal of Seehofer's visit was to close the gap between Russia and Europe and develop economic opportunities between the two countries.

He added that once the Minsk accords were implemented sanctions should be lifted as soon as possible.

cw/kms (dpa, Reuters)

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