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Germany says Putin move on U.N. peacekeepers in Ukraine a 'step'

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a news conference after BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Summit in Xiamen, China September 5, 2017. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany welcomed on Wednesday a suggestion by Russian President Vladimir Putin that armed U.N. peacekeepers could be deployed to eastern Ukraine to help protect ceasefire monitors, but said any prospect of lifting sanctions was still a way off.

Putin said on Tuesday that Russia intended to draft a U.N. Security Council resolution to this end, saying it would help resolve the problem in eastern Ukraine, though he also said preconditions would have to be met before any deployment.

German government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said any deployment would have to be across the whole area of conflict, not just on the contact line between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian separatists.

The war between the two sides has killed more than 10,000 people in three years.

“The president’s suggestion is a step,” said Demmer, adding many further steps were needed before sanctions could be lifted.

“For a complete lifting of sanctions to be discussed, there would need to be the full implementation of the Minsk ceasefire agreement,” she added.

Ukraine believes external peacekeepers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) should be deployed throughout separatist-held territory and on the sections of the Ukraine-Russia border that are not under Kiev’s control.

Kiev accuses Moscow of sending troops and heavy weapons to the region, which Russia denies.

Putin also said on Tuesday that any decision by the United States to supply defensive weapons to Ukraine would fuel the conflict.

Reporing by Madeline Chambers and Tom Koerkemeier; Editing by Catherine Evans