#AceNewsServices – PHONE CALL FROM MERKEL TO PUTIN – April 25 – 12.29 GMT

“In the phone call she expressed her great concern over the tense situation in eastern Ukraine and said she expects Russia’s government to express its commitment to the Geneva agreement and to cooperate in its implementation,” said spokesman Steffen Seibert.

Ukraine, Russia, the European Union and United States last week signed a deal in Geneva aimed at easing tensions in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian rebels have occupied government buildings.

Seibert said “Russia should publicly declare that it fully supports the Geneva declaration and it should publicly call on the armed pro-Russian groups in Ukraine to refrain from violence and lay down their arms”.

The spokesman stressed that so far Russia’s position since the Geneva deal had been “absolutely disappointing” and that “we can see no progress whatsoever”.

His comments echoed an earlier sharp rebuke to Moscow by US Secretary of State John Kerry and came as US President Barack Obama was to speak to European leaders including Merkel in a conference call.

Seibert, speaking at a Berlin press conference, said that “sanctions are already in place” against Russia and that “you have to face the facts – in case nothing changes, it is important to be prepared for more” sanctions.

Moscow confirmed the phone call but threw the blame for the crisis at the Ukrainian government, which it accused of “unwillingness to implement the Geneva agreements.”

“Vladimir Putin sharply condemned attempts by the Kiev regime to use armed forces against peaceful civilians in the southeast of the country,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

The Kremlin said Putin and Merkel had also discussed Russian gas shipments, a crucial source of energy for Ukraine and much of Europe.

“The leaders of both countries stressed it was important to conduct as soon as possible talks on issues relating to the security of supplies and transit of Russian gas involving representatives of Russia, the European Union and Ukraine,” it said.

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