Germany, US call on Russia to pull back troops from Ukrainian border

File photo. German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) receives the then US Vice President Joe Biden at the Federal Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, 1 February 2013. [Maurizio Gambardini/EPA/EFE]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Joe Biden called on Russia to pull back troops from the Ukrainian border to de-escalate the situation in the region, a German government spokesman said on Wednesday (14 April).

The United States and NATO allies have been alarmed by the large buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine and in Crimea, the peninsula that Moscow annexed from Kyiv in 2014.

Ukraine says Putin snubs Russian troop build-up talks

Ukraine accused the Kremlin of ignoring its request for talks between the two countries’ presidents over a build-up of Russian troops near its border, but Moscow said its soldiers were on its own territory, unlike US forces in the region.

Russia and Ukraine held simultaneous military drills on Wednesday as NATO foreign and defence ministers began emergency discussions on the massing of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border.

In their phone call, Merkel and Biden discussed the latest developments in eastern Ukraine and called on Russia to avoid any further escalation.

“The chancellor and the president agreed that Russia should reduce the latest troop reinforcements in order to de-escalate the situation,” government spokesman Steffen Seibert said.

The White House said in a statement that Biden and Merkel “expressed concern about the buildup of Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders and in occupied Crimea, and reaffirmed their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden had spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday to stress the consequences of Russia’s activities.

Turkish diplomatic sources said on Wednesday the United States had cancelled the deployment of two warships to the Black Sea.

Biden proposes summit with Putin, Russia says it’s too early

US President Joe Biden called on Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday (13 April) to reduce tensions stirred by a Russian military build-up on Ukraine’s border and proposed a summit of the estranged leaders to tackle a raft of disputes.

Last week Turkey announced that it had been informed through diplomatic channels that two US warships “will pass toward the Black Sea” and remain in the region until 4 May.

There was no confirmation from Washington either of the planned deployments or of their cancellation.

Washington is required to give Ankara at least 15 days’ notice before sending warships through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits under the terms of the 1936 Montreux Convention.

The treaty’s terms allow foreign warships to stay in the Black Sea for 21 days.

US Navy ships routinely operate in the region in support of Ukraine, which has been fighting Russian-backed forces in its east since a 2014 revolution ousted the pro-Moscow leader in Kiev.

Ahead of the notification about US warships, Russia’s navy on Wednesday began a drill in the Black Sea that rehearsed firing at surface and air targets. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called on Moscow on Tuesday to end its troop build-up.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan has called for the “worrying” developments in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region to come to an end.

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