Europe

Germany says Russia failing to meet Ukraine pledges, hints at sanctions

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Media captionDaniel Sandford is shown what Russian authorities say is the aftermath of a Ukrainian shell attack close to the Russian border

Germany has criticised Russia for failing to meet commitments to end the violence in eastern Ukraine, and said it might face further EU sanctions.

The warning follows talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel, US President Barack Obama and Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko.

A spokesman for Mrs Merkel said all three were disappointed by Russia's failure to act.

Meanwhile Ukrainian officials said 11 soldiers died in the space of 24 hours.

Heavy fighting was reported throughout the day near Izvaryne and Marynivka, near the Russian border.

The number of casualties among pro-Russian separatists was not immediately known.

Russia annexed the southern Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in March, and has been accused of arming the rebels and even sending regular Russian troops to the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk - a claim denied by the Kremlin.

More than 1,000 civilians and combatants have been killed since mid-April, when Ukrainian security forces moved to regain control of the eastern regions, while tens of thousands of people have left the region.

Both sides possess and use heavy weapons such as multiple rocket launchers and tanks.

'Insufficient'

EU leaders are meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, when they might choose to increase sanctions on Russia.

Mrs Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said she had agreed with Mr Poroshenko in a phone call ahead of the summit that "Russia has been insufficient in meeting expectations" on steps to end the fighting.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Pro-Russian rebels are continuing to hold the two regional capitals - Donetsk and Luhansk
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Civilians continue to leave Donetsk for safety in Russia
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Ukraine says its "anti-terror operation" is continuing

Mr Seibert pointed out that pro-Russian rebels had still not joined talks between Kiev, Moscow and western mediators.

He said the two leaders "shared the judgement of the OSCE [Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe] that the separatists lack... the will to enter into serious talks on declaring a mutual ceasefire".

The OSCE spoke out against pro-Russian separatists on Tuesday after a planned video conference call failed to take place.

"In the opinion of the Contact Group, this indicates a lack of willingness on the side of the separatists to engage in substantive talks on a mutually agreed ceasefire," the OSCE said in a statement.

The EU and US have already imposed some sanctions on Russian individuals and companies earlier this year, as Moscow annexed Crimea.

According to a draft statement seen by Reuters news agency, EU leaders will now also block loans for new projects in Russia by two multilateral lenders and broaden the scope of other sanctions.

The leaders will ask the European Investment Bank to suspend financing of new Russian public sector projects, the reported draft statement says.

They will also reportedly work together to suspend funding for new projects in Russia through the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Ahead of Wednesday's EU summit, at least 40,000 malicious images and insults were posted to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Facebook page, likening her to Nazi Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop for her relations with Russia.

Many social media users say they have been angered by reported comments by Mrs Merkel, suggesting that Ukraine should hold direct talks with rebel leaders.

On Tuesday, 11 people died when a plane bombed the rebel-held town of Snizhne in the Donetsk region.

Local people and rebels blamed the attack on the government, which denied involvement, amid Ukrainian suggestions a Russian warplane might have carried it out.

If true, it would be the first known occasion when a Russian warplane had become involved in the conflict.

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