BERLIN: Russian President Vladimir Putin will face Western pressure over Ukraine and Syria at talks in Berlin Wednesday, on his first visit to the German capital since the Ukrainian conflict erupted.
Host Chancellor Angela Merkel said the talks — also including France and Ukraine, in the first four-way summit for a year — were aimed at “offering a brutally honest assessment” of progress on implementing the frayed Minsk peace accords for Ukraine.
“Things are stalled in many areas such as the ceasefire, political issues and humanitarian issues,” she told reporters Tuesday.
“We have to seize every chance we have for progress. I have to say that we cannot expect a miracle but it is worth every effort at this point.”
Putin has not visited the German capital since Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, sending relations with the West plunging to their lowest point since the Cold War.
Russia’s involvement in the Syrian civil war, which has deepened the diplomatic freeze, will also figure at the top of the agenda, Merkel said.
Speaking of the “disastrous” situation in the besieged city of Aleppo, Merkel said she and French President Francois Hollande would speak to Putin “about somehow alleviating people’s suffering”.
The Berlin meeting takes place on the eve of a European Union summit in Brussels on relations with Russia, including sanctions over Ukraine, which come up for renewal at the end of the year. It is also expected to cover Russia’s role in Syria, which sparked a furious row between Russia and France last week, prompting Putin to cancel a visit to Paris.