UPDATE 3.30pm:German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she is not satisfied with the progress of talks about the situation in eastern Ukraine, after a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Speaking after the two met for talks in Sochi, Russia, Mrs Merkel said there are still fundamental differences of opinion, emphasising that Germany believes in the democratic legitimacy of the Ukrainian government.
"We are of differing opinions about the cause of the conflict," she said, but added that the "Normandy Format" meetings of Germany, Russia, Ukraine and France is still the best forum for the talks.
She added that all sides want to prevent a further escalation of the conflict and that the Normandy talks had helped.
In her first trip to Russia in two years, the pair also discussed the civil war in Syria, and Mrs Merkel asked Mr Putin to help protect the right of gays in Chechnya following reports that they are persecuted there.
She told reporters after the talks: "I asked President Putin to use his influence to protect these minority rights."
Mrs Merkel said she wanted to "keep trying to find solutions" to global problems and that Moscow has an important role to play.
EARLIER: German Chancellor Angela Merkel has arrived in Russia for talks with President Vladimir Putin on the unresolved conflict in Ukraine and the civil war in Syria.
Ms Merkel travelled to the Black Sea city of Sochi for a one-day visit, in her first trip to Russia in two years.
The pair last met in Germany in October for talks aimed at reviving the peace process in eastern Ukraine.
The new meeting comes amid tensions over Germany's support for sanctions imposed on Russia for its aggression in Ukraine.
Mr Putin appears eager to improve ties. He told Germany's foreign minister during a recent visit that it is "our common goal to fully normalise relations and to make sure all the difficulties we face are overcome".
Opening the latest talks, he said: "We must use this opportunity to talk about our relations and about more problematic issues, such as Ukraine and Syria and perhaps some other regions."