Merkel urges Putin to use influence over Ukraine rebels
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, during a telephone call with President Vladimir Putin Wednesday, stressed Moscow's "responsibility" to act as a moderating influence over the pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine.
The ceasefire in place in eastern Ukraine "must be strictly respected", a statement by a German government spokesman cited Merkel as saying, adding that the two leaders shared the same concerns over the persistent violence in Ukraine.
She "insisted on Russia's responsibility to exercise a moderating influence on the pro-Russian separatists".
The Ukraine-Russia border should be properly monitored, the statement continued, stressing the importance of the role played by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), charged with overseeing the ceasefire signed a month ago.
Berlin will continue to support the new OSCE mission in east Ukraine. Germany and France recently proposed providing the mission with pilotless drones to give an aerial view to improve its ceasefire monitoring.
Clashes have raged for days at several flashpoints around the region, with the Ukraine authorities and the pro-Moscow rebels blaming each other for violating the agreement that commits them to withdrawing weapons and establishing a buffer zone.
Ukraine's largest rebel-controlled city of Donetsk was shaken by violence Wednesday as 10 people were killed, some of them teachers and parents showing up for the first day of school.
This was the heaviest civilian toll since the tenuous ceasefire commenced.
The United States has decried the violence while the European Union decided Tuesday to keep Russian sanctions in place, maintaining pressure on Moscow in the worst East-West standoff since the Cold War.
On Wednesday the monitoring group, made up of representatives from the Russian and Ukrainian militaries as well as the Organisation for the Security and Cooperation in Europe, began to patrol regions most frequently hit by ceasefire violations.
© 2014 AFP