KIEV/BERLIN Germany's Angela Merkel will hold talks in Ukraine on Saturday with national and local leaders aimed at boosting efforts to support the government in Kiev in its struggle against pro-Russian rebels, German and Ukrainian officials said on Tuesday.
During the visit, which takes place on the eve of Ukraine's Independence Day celebrations, Merkel will meet President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk as well as the mayors of some Ukrainian cities, the chancellor's office said.
"The current situation in Ukraine and the relationship with Russia will be at the heart of all the talks," her office said in a statement, adding that their discussions would also cover "concrete options for supporting Ukraine in the current crisis".
The latest round of top-level diplomatic talks in Berlin on Sunday with the Russian, Ukrainian, German and French foreign ministers ended with no apparent progress towards a ceasefire between the government and separatists.
The ministers are now consulting with their governments to decide whether to continue talking by telephone.
The four-month conflict in the Russian-speaking east has reached a critical phase, with Kiev and the West watching to see if Russia will use troops massed along its border to intervene in support of the increasingly besieged rebels.
(Reporting by Natalia Zinets in Kiev and Stephen Brown in Berlin; Writing by Alessandra Prentice and Stephen Brown; Editing by Richard Balmforth and Alison Williams)