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


FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Angela Merkel gives a statement, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Berlin, Germany, April 13, 2021. REUTERS/Annegret Hilse/Pool

BERLIN (Reuters) -German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. 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.

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.

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.

(Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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