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Merkel and Hollande arrive in Moscow

February 6, 2015

The French and German leaders have landed in Russia for talks with President Putin. Merkel and Hollande hope to stem the bloodshed in Ukraine, but were cautious to show much hope for a positive outcome of the meeting.

Ankunft Merkel und Hollande zu Gesprächen mit Putin in Moskau
Image: Reuters/S. Karpukhin

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande arrived in Moscow on Friday in what is seen by many as a final rush to secure a ceasefire between the Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists. Their last-minute visit has fueled fears that the conflict is threatening overall security in Europe.

"Everyone is aware that the first step must be in the ceasefire, but that it cannot suffice. We must seek a global solution," Hollande told journalists in Paris before heading to the airport. The French president said he and Merkel would present "a new proposal for a comprehensive settlement based on the territorial integrity of Ukraine," and denied rumors that the plan actually came from the Kremlin.

Speaking in Berlin before her own flight to Moscow, Merkel said she was "convinced that there is no military solution to this conflict," but took a realistic view of her Russian trip, saying no one could be sure they would "manage to achieve a truce through these talks."

The two leaders began their meeting with Putin in the early evening. It was expected to go late into Friday night.

Sending arms to Ukraine could backfire

In her opening speech at an international security conference in Munich, Merkel's defense secretary, Ursula von der Leyen, warned that arming Ukraine - something Ukrainian officials have repeatedly asked for - could backfire.

Münchener Sicherheitskonferenz 2015 Rede von der Leyen
Ursula von der Leyen opened the conference attended by dozens of world leaders and defense ministersImage: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Gebert

"Would this not be an excuse for Russia to intervene openly in the conflict?" von der Leyen asked.

"Are we sure that we would be improving the situation for the people in Ukraine by delivering weapons? Are we really sure that Ukraine can win against the Russian military machine?" the German minister told the conference, which was also attended by the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers.

The US is reportedly reconsidering its stance not to arm Ukraine, as President Barack Obama faces increased pressure from Congress to take a more decisive stance on the conflict.

Violence in eastern Ukraine saw a significant uptick in January after a relative lull in December. Although Russia has vehemently denied backing the rebels, NATO top commander Philip Breedlove said on Thursday that the Kremlin continues to supply the separatists with heavy weaponry while publically calling for peace.

es/kms (AP, dpa, Reuters)