Nov 18, 2014 5:58 AM

Germany's minister shuttles between Moscow, Kiev

The Associated Press

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) Germany's foreign minister on Tuesday urged the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists to respect their cease-fire agreement, which has helped to halt ground combat but failed to stop daily artillery exchanges.

The continuing military conflict in eastern Ukraine has killed more than 4,000 people and displaced a million, according to the U.N. The accords signed on Sept. 5 in Minsk froze the position of front lines between the sides although heavy artillery fire is still killing civilians and combatants daily.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is shuttling between Kiev and Moscow on Tuesday in a bid to ease tensions, told reporters in Kiev that both sides should stick to the Minsk accords however imperfect they are.

"Minsk wasn't perfect. And we all know that Minsk was broken," Steinmeier said. "But Minsk remains a reference point, and that's why I call for us to keep working on the implementation of the Minsk protocol."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday accused Russia of undermining peace across Europe, warning that regional conflicts like in eastern Ukraine could cause disturbances in other post-Soviet countries.

Dozens of armored trucks, artillery and tanks were spotted in rebel-held areas in the past couple of weeks, fueling fears that hostilities could resume soon.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday said that inside Ukraine and on the Russian side of the border, "we see the movement of troops, of equipment, of tanks, of artillery, and also advanced air-defense systems."

"And this is a violation of the cease-fire agreements and we call on Russia to pull back its forces from eastern Ukraine and to respect the Minsk agreements," he told reporters.

Stoltenberg was meeting Tuesday with defense ministers of the 28-member European Union.


John-Thor Dahlburg in Brussels and Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.


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