UPDATE 1-Germany's Merkel says Ukraine truce needed, Russia needs to push for peace

BERLIN, July 18 Fri Jul 18, 2014 6:02am EDT

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BERLIN, July 18 (Reuters) - Moscow needs to recognise its responsibility for ensuring the peace process advances in Ukraine, where a ceasefire is needed to investigate the crash of a commercial airliner close to the Russian border, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday.

There are many indications that the plane was shot down, and the perpetrators must be bought to justice, she said.

"These events have once again shown us that what is required is a political solution and above all that it is also Russia that is responsible for what is happening in Ukraine at the moment," Merkel told a news conference in Berlin.

She added that she was making "a very clear call for the Russian president and government to make their contribution to bringing about a political solution."

An independent investigation into the crash should be started as quickly as possible, she added.

Thursday's crash, in which all 298 people on board the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 were killed, could mark a pivotal moment in the worst crisis between Russia and the West since the Cold War.

One U.S. official said Washington strongly suspected the plane was downed by a sophisticated surface-to-air missile fired by Ukrainian separatists backed by Moscow.

Merkel also said there was no alternative to seeking dialogue over Ukraine with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin, accused by the West of backing the rebels in Ukraine, pinned the blame for the crash on Kiev for renewing its offensive against rebels two weeks ago after a ceasefire failed to hold. The Kremlin leader called it a "tragedy", and later called for a "thorough and unbiased" investigation.

Merkel and Putin have been in regular telephone contact over the Ukraine crisis, with the German leader urging her Russian counterpart to use his influence with the separatists to help bring about an end to the fighting in the east in which hundreds of people have been killed.

(Reporting by Annika Breidthardt, writing by John Stonestreet; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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