German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday warned against severing ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the Ukraine crisis but said he must also do his part.
Merkel told the Saechsische Zeitung newspaper she was "working very hard to keep the lines of communication open" with Putin despite the EU's decision last month to level sanctions against Russia over its actions in the ex-Soviet state.
"But for constructive relations it takes more than one," she added.
"I have always called for constructive cooperation with Russia and will continue to do so in future."
However, Merkel said she would never accept the annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in March this year.
Merkel, a fluent Russian speaker, has held regular talks by telephone with Putin, who served as a KGB agent in Dresden during the Cold War, since the Ukraine crisis erupted, urging respect for Ukrainian sovereignty.
Germany, whose trade ties with Russia amounted to nearly 90 billion euros last year, had long resisted imposing broad economic sanctions against Moscow.
But the shooting down last month of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, allegedly by pro-Moscow rebels with a Russian-made missile, led the EU's top economic power to adopt a firmer line.
Meanwhile, a convoy of nearly 300 trucks carrying what Russia says is humanitarian aid for victims of fighting in eastern Ukraine moved slowly towards the border yesterday despite concerns by Kiev and the West over the shipment, Russian officials said.
But Kiev again insisted it would not allow the convoy on its territory.
President Vladimir Putin has justified sending the aid due to the "catastrophic" situation in the besieged rebel strongholds of Lugansk and Donetsk, where officials have warned of a looming humanitarian disaster because of shortages of food, water and power. But there are concerns by Kiev and the West that Moscow could use the operation as a cover for sending in troops.