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Ukraine's Yatsenyuk appeals to Germany, EU in Berlin visit

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has traveled to Berlin for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Yatsenyuk is looking to drum up support for Ukraine from Germany and the rest of the EU.

Ahead of talks scheduled Wednesday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, Arseniy Yatsenyuk spoke at an event put on by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, a political foundation affiliated with Merkel's CDU party.

He said he was "skeptical" of the ceasefire agreement established in Minsk in February, adding that pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine were regrouping near the port city of Mariupol. He said there were hundreds of Russian tanks in the rebel-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine supporting 30,000 "terrorists" that were backed by Russian soldiers.

One likely topic for Yatsenyuk's meeting with Merkel and Schäuble will be a request for increased European help to reduce the economic toll of Ukraine's conflict with Russia.

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He told the dpa news agency that Ukraine had "completely lost the Russian market for our exports," but had "largely" made up the deficit with new trade partners in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the United States.

One of Ukraine's next steps, Yatsenyuk said, is to reduce its dependence on gas deliveries from Russia. Russian gas operator Gazprom offered a three month extension to a deal with Kyiv that ended Tuesday, but Ukraine had asked for a one-year extension. The European Commission recommended that Ukraine accept Gazprom's offer.

"The Commission encourages the Ukrainian authorities and [Ukrainian state energy firm] Naftogaz to seize this opportunity to the largest extent possible," said Commission spokesperson Anna-Kaisa Itkonen in a statement Wednesday.

In comments made earlier in the day during a separate meeting with Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev, Merkel said the Minsk agreement was an important milestone toward a peaceful development, calling on all sides to complete the necessary steps to see it through.

mz/jil (Reuters, dpa)

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