Putin 'needs to help calm Ukraine'
German chancellor Angela Merkel has said Russian president Vladimir Putin must send more "signals of de-escalation" to help calm the situation in Ukraine and make presidential elections there possible on May 25.
Mrs Merkel spoke after meeting French president Francois Hollande in her constituency in north-eastern Germany. The two leaders stressed their view that a sovereignty referendum planned tomorrow by pro-Russian insurgents in two troubled eastern Ukrainian regions is illegitimate.
The rebels are going ahead with the referendum despite Mr Putin's call on Wednesday to delay the vote.
Mrs Merkel said that "the Russian president must send more signals of de-escalation" so the presidential elections can go ahead.
She said she would like to see a "national dialogue" in Ukraine start next week if possible, but did not specify who should participate.
Ukraine's acting president warned the eastern regions planning to hold referendums against self-destruction.
The ballots seek approval for declaring so-called sovereign people's republics in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, where pro-Russia insurgents have seized government buildings and clashed with police and Ukrainian troops.
At least seven people died yesterday in clashes in the city of Mariupol. The city remained on edge today, with barricades of tyres blocking some streets in the city centre.
President Oleksandr Turchynov said supporters of independence for the east "don't understand that this would be a complete destruction of the economy, social programs and general life for the majority of the population".