German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier flew from Kyiv to Moscow and met with his Russian counterpart during the evening of November 18.
Steinmeier and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed the deteriorating situation in Ukraine.
Both reportedly agreed on the need to return to the so-called Minsk protocol, a dialogue that involves the warring factions in Ukraine, as well as Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Steinmeier said he did not "see reasons for optimism" that the Minsk protocol could achieve a breakthrough on the ground in eastern Ukraine.
But he added that "it would be a huge loss" to abandon the protocol at this time.
Steinmeier and Lavrov also called on Kyiv and the separatist leadership in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions to start direct talks aimed at pulling their military forces back.
Lavrov said the Minsk protocol was a "unique format…the only one in which the conflicting parties are represented with Russia's and the OSCE's participation."
Earlier on November 18, Steimeier met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk in Kyiv.
Yatsenyuk agreed that the basic points of the Minsk agreement "have not been fulfilled."
"Russia must fulfil what it signed and what it promised to the whole world," he said.
The conflict in eastern Ukraine has killed more than 4,100 people since April, raising concerns about Moscow's intentions elsewhere and bringing Russia's relations with the West to post-Cold War lows.
Ties had already been badly damaged by Russia's annexation of Crimea in March, which followed the flight of President Viktor Yanukovych from Ukraine after months of protests over his November decision to spurn a landmark political and economic pact with the European Union and turn to Moscow instead.
A Ukrainian military spokesman said on November 18 that five Ukrainian troops had been killed in the previous 24 hours, and reported the shelling of government positions in several locations including Donetsk airport.