German vice chancellor urges 'federal' Ukraine
Berlin - Germany's vice chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, said on Saturday establishing a federal Ukraine would be the only viable solution to the crisis pitting Kiev against pro-Russian separatists.
"The wise concept of federalism seems to me the only viable path," the vice chancellor and economic and energy affairs minister said in an interview to appear Sunday in the German weekly Welt am Sonntag.
The paper released extracts of the interview just hours before German Chancellor Angela Merkel was set to meet Ukrainian officials in Kiev for crisis talks.
Merkel, the most influential Western leader to visit Ukraine's pro-Western leaders, will hold talks with President Petro Poroshenko, three days ahead of the first meeting in months between Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Minsk alongside top EU officials.
Western leaders have demanded Russia withdraw its disputed aid convoy from Ukraine after the Kremlin unilaterally sent them to the insurgent stronghold of Lugansk on Friday in a move Kiev decried as an "invasion".
Parts of the mammoth aid convoy crossed back into Russian territory on Saturday.
The German diplomatic push is aimed mainly at "avoiding, by any means possible, a direct military confrontation between Russia and Ukraine," Gabriel said.
"The territorial integrity of Ukraine cannot be preserved unless a proposition is made to the majority Russian-speaking regions," he said.
But he was pessimistic over a return to Kiev's control of the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Moscow in March.