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Under-fire Putin briefs Trump over Ukraine as EU leaders up pressure

AFP  |  Buenos Aires 

Russian said he briefed his US counterpart on the crisis Saturday as he came under pressure over Moscow's robust foreign policy at the summit in

Putin said he explained Moscow's position when the leaders met briefly at a summit dinner.

"We spoke standing up. I replied to his questions about the incident in the Black Sea," Putin told reporters at the end of the summit.

Putin strode into the summit on Friday under a cloud, having drawn outrage from over last Sunday's incident in which his navy detained Ukrainian ships and 24 sailors -- causing Trump to abruptly cancel their scheduled meeting.

German took him to task at length Saturday over the naval spat, a day after French urged Putin to "de-escalate" the crisis.

Merkel used breakfast with Putin on the sidelines of the summit to voice her "concern" over the tensions in the off Russian-annexed Crimea.

"Of course, we talked about the situation in the Sea of Azov, because it is important to avoid any aggravation," Merkel said in

Macron raised his concerns with the Russian leader at one of his first bilateral meetings, pressing him "to make the necessary gestures so that there is a de-escalation", said a French

Both European countries are members of the "Normandy Four" group with and Kiev, set up to resolve the conflict in involving Russian-backed rebels.

Merkel said she had also discussed with Putin, "especially ... the Idlib region," where a fragile ceasefire has been negotiated between rebels and forces backed by

Her main focus, however, was on the situation in

"I want to make it quite clear, though, that free shipping to the must be guaranteed to the and cities. There is a basic contractual agreement from 2003 on this. must comply with this basis," she said.

Away from the summit, US said had shown "brazen contempt" for a deal "that allowed both Russian and Ukrainian ships free passage." - 'Exhaustive explanations'-

On Saturday Putin -- who has praised his navy for defending Russian territory -- "provided exhaustive explanations on this incident in the Black Sea, explaining everything in detail, in exactly the same manner as yesterday during his meeting with the French president", Kremlin told

Friday's version entailed Putin drawing a map for Macron of the Kerch Strait, to buttress his position that the seized Ukrainian ships had intruded into Russian waters -- a claim denied by

"Putin took out a sheet of paper and sketched out the sea and the strait and tried to explain to the the route the Ukrainian ships had taken through neutral, then territorial, waters," an to Macron told journalists.

According to the aide, Putin's detailed description of the incident took about 10 minutes.

As for Macron, "the main message that he passed on is really that of a de-escalation", the said.

Far from offering comforting words, Putin said at a post-summit press conference he saw no end in sight to the four-year conflict in "as long as the current Ukrainian authorities remain in power".

"The current Ukrainian authorities have no interest in resolving the conflict, especially by peaceful means," he said.

The November 25 incident in the contested -- which connects the with the -- was the first open military confrontation between and Moscow since Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

has demanded the return of its ships and the release of 24 sailors taken prisoner during the confrontation.

Merkel said had suggested a meeting of the Normandy group to discuss the crisis.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, December 02 2018. 06:30 IST
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