Putin & European leaders in Berlin to talk E. Ukraine, Syria

Vladimir Putin, Petro Poroshenko, Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande have joined roundtable talks in Berlin as fighting rages in Syria and concerns persist that the Minsk Accords, designed to bring a political resolution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, have not been implemented.

On the eve of the summit, Merkel told the media “not to expect any miracles” in relation to Donbass, where fighting broke out in 2014.

"Things are stalled in many areas such as the ceasefire, political issues and humanitarian issues," the German chancellor said.

Agreed in February 2015 in the Belarussian capital, the Accords laid out a roadmap for a ceasefire and demilitarization of eastern Ukraine, which is still partly controlled by those who refuse to recognize Kiev’s authority, followed by political reform and new elections that would incorporate the will of the local population.

Day-to-day violence in a conflict that has claimed at least 9,500 lives, according to the UN, has subsided, but sides remain locked in a stalemate.

Earlier this month, Poroshenko, the Ukrainian president, said that no political reforms would be possible until a complete ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy artillery from the region. He also insisted that the control of the border would first be returned to the OSCE, then to Kiev – a demand that runs contrary to the agreed terms.

Days later, Putin shot back, saying that Ukraine was looking for a “pretext” not to comply with the agreement, and claiming that the anti-Kiev forces would not disarm and leave themselves at the mercy of the Ukrainian authorities unless they were given political guarantees.

The talks mark the first time Putin has visited the German capital since the start of political upheaval in Ukraine.

The three leaders - without Poroshenko - have dedicated a session to discussing Syria, an issue that has dominated Moscow's relations with the West this year.

This month, French President Francois Hollande called for Russia to be investigated for war crimes during the battle for Aleppo.

READ MORE:Planned humanitarian pause in Aleppo extended by 3 hours, 8 corridors to open – Russian military 

In response, Putin canceled his visit to France, which was meant to fall on the same day as Wednesday’s talks in Berlin.

Hollande promised to discuss "measures to alleviate human suffering" with the Russian leader, just as Moscow announced an 11-hour government ceasefire around Aleppo for Thursday, to allow rebels and civilians to leave the eastern part of the city. The Russian President consulted with Syrian leader Bashar Assad by phone, before sitting down at the negotiating table in Berlin.

AFP reported that Hollande, Merkel and other Western leaders have already drafted a condemnation of Russia's actions in Aleppo to be published following an EU leaders' summit on Thursday in Brussels.