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Merkel and Hollande in bid to agree Ukraine cease-fire as US considers arming Kiev

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande will fly to Moscow today for face-to-face talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in attempt to agree a solution in the conflict between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country. Britain’s former top NATO Commander General Sir Richard Shirreff told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “it is unfortunate that the weight that the British Prime Minister could bring to efforts to resolve this crisis appears to be absent.”

A senior EU official suggested the Franco-German initiative was prompted by concerns that the US could agree to supply Ukraine with weapons such as anti-tank missiles – a move which Berlin and Paris believe will only inflame the situation. An Emnid poll for N24 found that 75% of Germans were opposed in principle to the arming of Ukraine, with 12% in favour of Germany supporting an American-led effort, and only 9% in favour of Germany arming Ukraine itself.

Meanwhile, NATO announced the opening of eight new facilities in Central and Eastern Europe including six new “command and control centres” in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania and a “training centre” in Georgia as well the expansion of the alliance’s rapid response force from 13,000 to 30,000 troops, with Britain contributing 1,000 troops to a 5,000-strong rapid-response force.

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