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MOSCOW, March 31 Russian President Vladimir
Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed how Moscow
and the West can help "restore stability" in Ukraine during a
telephone call on Monday, the Kremlin said.
Putin told Merkel that Ukraine must enact constitutional
reforms to ensure that the interests of all its regions are
respected, and called for measures to end what he called a
"blockade" of Moldova's breakaway Transdniestria region, his
Russia has seized the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine and
warned it could send its military into eastern Ukraine to
protect Russian-speakers there, but has also engaged in
diplomacy that it says is aimed at decreasing tension.
Putin and Merkel discussed "opportunities for international
support for the restoration of stability" in Ukraine, the
Kremlin statement said. It gave no details, but Russia has
indicated it wants Western states to press the Kiev government
to grant broad autonomy to Ukraine's regions.
Western officials have expressed concern that Putin may have
set his sights on pro-Russian Transdniestria, on Ukraine's
western border, following the annexation of Crimea.
Putin's comments appeared aimed at turning the tables,
blaming others for tension over Transdniestria and saying it
could not be ignored.
"The Russian leader spoke of the need to take effective
measures aimed at removing the de facto external blockade of
this region and at searching for a fair and comprehensive
solution to the Transdniestria issue," the Kremlin statement
Transdniestria, with a population of half a million, has run
its own affairs since 1992 after fighting a brief war against
the Moldovan government over fears that it might join Romania
after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia has a permanent
garrison of peacekeepers there.
(Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk; Writing by Steve Gutterman;
Editing by Kevin Liffey)