July 13, 2016 / 10:47 AM / 4 years ago

Putin to Merkel, Hollande: Help avoid Ukraine escalation

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a bilateral meeting prior to a summit on Ukraine at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, October 2, 2015. REUTERS/Etienne Laurent/Pool

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday asked German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande to use their influence to help prevent any escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, the Kremlin said in a statement.

Putin in a phone call with the two leaders expressed his concerns about the state of a shaky truce between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine who have been fighting each other since 2014, the Kremlin said.

“The importance of not allowing any further escalation in the situation was underlined,” it said of the call.

“Vladimir Putin expressed his concerns in connection with the intense shelling by Ukrainian troops of populated areas in Donbass,” it added. The separatists and the Ukrainian army regularly accuse each other of violating the Minsk peace accord, which was meant to end the fighting.

Merkel has said she wants to see more progress on the accord before considering whether European Union sanctions imposed on Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis should be lifted.

The three leaders had also discussed NATO’s recent summit in Warsaw, which had weighed the threat the alliance considered Moscow poses, the Kremlin said. It said there had been consensus about the need for a constructive dialogue and specific measures to foster trust between Russia and NATO.

Reporting by Polina Devitt; Writing by Denis Pinchuk; Editing by Andrew Osborn

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