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Merkel Presses Putin On Ukrainian Separatists

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to use Moscow's influence with separatists in eastern Ukraine to help secure progress toward a political solution of the crisis.

Merkel's office said the two leaders spoke by phone on February 2 at Putin's request.

The call came one day after Merkel met Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Berlin and nearly one year after Germany and France helped to broker the Minsk peace deal for Ukraine.

Merkel said the security situation in eastern Ukraine must be improved, a cease-fire observed, and international observers given unrestricted access to the conflict zone to enable further progress.

Merkel said on February 1 that she doesn't see grounds for lifting economic sanctions against Russia at the current time.

In December, the European Union extended the sanctions through July 31.

More than 9,100 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine since government forces and Russia-backed separatists began fighting in early 2014.

Based on reporting by AP, AFP, and TASS

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