US President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have agreed to call on Russia to reduce its troops on the border with Ukraine, Merkel’s office said Wednesday.
During a phone conversation Wednesday, the two leaders both agreed that scaling down Russian troops there would help bring ‘a de-escalation" of tension in the region, the statement said.
In its readout of the call, the White House said “the leaders expressed concern about the build-up of Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders and in occupied Crimea, and reaffirmed their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity."
Earlier Wednesday, German Foreign Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer accused Russia of trying to increase tension along the border in the region.
“My impression is that the Russian side is trying everything to provoke a reaction, she told ARD public television.
“Together with Ukraine, we won’t be drawn into this game," she added.
The growing Russian presence along the Ukrainian border has caused concern in the West in recent days.
Washington says Russian troop levels there are at their highest since 2014, when war first broke out in eastern Ukraine with Moscow-backed separatists.
But Russia has insisted that it sent troops to its western borders for combat drills because of “threats" from the transatlantic alliance NATO.
On Tuesday, Biden proposed a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, an offer that Russia is still considering.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kulebawas meeting in Brussels with top officials of NATO nations including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the transatlantic alliance’s chief, Jens Stoltenberg.
Earlier in April, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged NATO to speed up his country’s membership into the alliance, saying it was the only way to end fighting with pro-Russia separatists.