The leaders of Russia and Germany squared off over Ukraine from opposite sides of the globe.
Vladimir Putin warned Moscow will not accept a defeat for pro-Russian rebels and Angela Merkel accused the Kremlin of undermining peace across Europe.
But despite the harsh rhetoric, EU foreign ministers refrained from increasing the sanctions against Moscow, voicing support for a floundering peace deal in eastern Ukraine that has been undermined by continuing hostilities. At least 10 people were killed and 17 others wounded in the latest fighting, authorities reported yesterday.
In an interview with German ARD television, Putin said he still believes in the success of peace efforts in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian rebels have been battling Kiev’s troops in a conflict that has claimed more than 4,000 lives.
Merkel, the German chancellor, spoke in Sydney after the G-20 summit, which Putin left early after receiving a chilly response from Western leaders. In unequivocal terms, she said Russia’s annexation of Crimea had raised the threat of more conflicts in Europe.
“Who would have thought that, 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, after the end of the Cold War and the end of the world’s separation into two blocks, something like this could have happened in the middle of Europe?” Merkel said.
“Old ways of thinking in spheres of influence, which spurn international law, must not become accepted.”
The German leader warned regional conflicts “can very quickly broaden to major fires.”
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