Chancellor Angela Merkel told President Petro Poroshenko that a UN-led peace mission for eastern Ukraine remains Germany's aim. The leaders also discussed the underwater gas pipelines from Russia to the European Union.
A proper ceasefire in eastern Ukraine is still absent after four years of conflict, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said at a press conference in Berlin on Tuesday.
"We're still pushing for exchanges of prisoners and the observance of a ceasefire," Merkel said, adding that she had had talks with the Russian president on Monday evening.
"We can not let up in our efforts, because it involves people, soldiers, who lose their lives," Merkel said, referring to a truce plan mediated by France and Germany.
Chunks of eastern Ukraine, including the Donetsk People's Republic and Lugansk People's Republic, were seized by pro-Moscow separatists in 2014, in the early days of a conflict that has claimed more than 10,000 lives.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who said he was "proud" to be visiting Berlin so soon after the formation of Merkel's fourth coalition government, went on to accuse Russia of disguising its involvement with separatists.
Twenty-nine Russian soldiers and officers were in Ukrainian custody, but Russia has maintained a ploy of "not being present," Poroshenko said, alleging there is a similar pattern in Syria, where Russia backs forces of President Bashar al-Assad.
Kyiv expects "more civilized" behavior from Russia in implementing accords, first agreed to in Minsk, Belarus, in 2014, on disarmament and electoral reform, Poroshenko said.
Concerns over pipeline
Poroshenko also thanked Germany for not recognizing Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and for boosting trade with Ukraine — ahead of a business forum in Ukraine later this year that will involve a large German delegation.
Merkel assured Poroshenko that Ukraine would remain a transit zone for Russian natural gas to the European Union despite a bypass project through the Baltic Sea called Nord Stream 2. "A Nord Stream 2 project without clarity about the Ukrainian transit role is not possible," she said.
"The fact is that we cannot allow that, with Nord Stream 2, Ukraine would have no significance at all any more with regard to gas transit," Merkel said. She said she had "listened closely to the concerns of Ukraine," during her talks with Poroshenko.
All parties are being consulted, and Ukraine does not need to worry, Merkel said, adding that gas transit generates revenues for Kyiv and is therefore of strategic importance.
In an interview with Handelsblatt on Monday Poroshenko had expressed concerns that Nord Stream 2 could enable an "economic and energy blockade" against Ukraine.
ipj/jm (AFP, dpa)