Merkel Says Putin Not Doing Enough to Ensure Ukraine Vote

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said President Vladimir Putin must do more to rein in Russian separatists in Ukraine before elections on May 25 or risk economic sanctions by the European Union.

“The Russian president must send out more signals of de-escalation so the elections can take place,” Merkel said alongside French President Francois Hollande after they held talks at Stralsund on Germany’s Baltic coast today. Eastern and southern Ukraine must get the message that “everyone supports free and general” elections, she said.

“Anything else would contribute to a further destabilization of Ukraine,” triggering the EU’s standing threat “that we are ready to proceed toward further sanctions,” Merkel said.

Merkel and Hollande, who lead the two biggest euro-area economies, took a joint stand that included declaring tomorrow’s planned separatist referendums in Ukraine illegal. In a joint statement, the two governments called for armed groups in Ukraine to surrender weapons starting May 15 to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and said Ukraine must be able to hold an internationally recognized vote.

About 20 people were killed yesterday in clashes between separatists and Ukrainian government forces in the city of Mariupol, while Putin made his first visit to the Crimea region since Russia annexed it in March. Separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions have said they plan to hold referendums tomorrow on autonomy, as Crimea did before it was annexed.

Ukraine’s presidential vote must be held “in full regularity and in full transparency” and should provide the next president with “indispensable legitimacy,” Hollande said.

Constitutional Reform

Germany and France also sent a message to the Ukrainian government of interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, saying it should avoid excessive force, speed up constitutional reform and start a national dialogue about decentralizing power and minority rights.

“All parties should refrain from violence and intimidation as well as provocative acts or statements,” according to the joint statement.

With his trip to Merkel’s electoral district, Hollande joined a select group of leaders to experience the chancellor’s hospitality in her back yard rather than in Berlin. Most notable was President George W. Bush, for whom Merkel put on a Texas-style hog roast at a former East German collective farm in July 2006.

Hollande was treated to a boat trip, a stroll on a pier and dinner at a seaside hotel yesterday before Merkel showed him around the 780-year-old Hanseatic trading port of Stralsund today.

The chancellor’s gift for Hollande was a reminder of enmity that France and Germany have overcome: pickled herring named after Otto von Bismarck. He’s the Prussian chancellor who united Germany in 1871 after its forces defeated France in war.

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