While Angela Merkel met only with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, France's president also met his election rival. Merkel came under criticism for not meeting with the novice politician, who is tipped to win.
Ukraine's embattled president traveled to Germany and France on Friday ahead of a runoff election, while his rival tipped to become the country's next leader headed only to Paris.
Polls show President Petro Poroshenko falling far behind comic and political novice Volodymyr Zelenskiy ahead of the April 21 runoff vote.
France and Germany, which have led diplomatic efforts to end a proxy conflict between Ukraine and Russia, are watching the potential political shakeup closely.
While German Chancellor Angela Merkel met only with Poroshenko, French President Emmanuel Macron met with Zelenskiy in Paris before a scheduled meeting later with Ukraine's incumbent president.
Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said no meeting was planned with Zelenskiy "at present."
Merkel defends meeting before election
In Berlin, Merkel sought to dispel the perception that she favors Poroshenko after his rival was not invited for a meeting.
She and her Ukrainian counterpart are "in constant contact" even when there are upcoming elections, she said at a press conference.
"We have built very close relations in the last few years," Merkel said.
She added that implementing democratic change and fighting corruption was complicated.
"Ukraine has made progress here, but certainly is not at the end of the road," she said.
Reviving Ukraine peace process
France and Germany are part of the so-called Normandy quartet alongside Russia and Ukraine to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Repeated rounds of talks to implement the 2015 Minsk accords have failed to end the conflict which has killed at least 13,000 people.
Merkel said that she supported continued talks between the four countries.
"We must continue on this path, because it is the only one I can see on which we can really make progress," she said.
"There have been successes in some areas, but a great deal of work remains to be done on many things, so Germany will continue — independently of the outcome of the election — to support the positive and good development of Ukraine," Merkel said.
Poroshenko has sought to portray himself during the election as the only leader who can stand strong against Moscow, in contrast to Zelenskiy whose only experience is playing the president on a television comedy program.
Poroshenko, who has campaigned to bring Ukraine into the EU and NATO, said he would hold a summit to end fighting with Russia immediately after the election.
Zelenskiy, who has never held a political office, has said he would to try to end the conflict with Russia. He has promised to maintain Ukraine's pro-EU trajectory and hold a referendum on NATO membership.
After the first round of the vote, he suggested that he would ask Russia for compensation for the war and for annexing Crimea.
Merkel came under fire from the German opposition for meeting only with Poroshenko before the election.
That the chancellor only met with one of the presidential candidates before the election showed she was "interfering," Left Party politician Andrej Hunko said.
Stephan Thomae, a politician from the liberal Free Democrats and member of the Germany-Ukraine parliamentary group, called the meeting with Poroshenko "extremely awkward."
Susan Stewart, a Ukraine expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, said that Poroshenko's meeting with Merkel would play into his message to the electorate that he is "taken seriously in Europe and would advance ties with the EU."
cw/rc (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)