Vladimir Putin signs attends wedding of Austria's pro-Moscow foreign minister

Vladimir Putin signs attends wedding of Austria's pro-Moscow foreign minister

The two leaders believe "it is absolutely wrong to politicize this project" and that it should be completed, he said.

The Minsk agreements, a peace process sponsored by Germany and France aimed at ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine, is at a standstill, Merkel said, pointing at the absence of a "stable ceasefire".

The pipeline will allow gas to be transported directly to Germany from Russian Federation without transiting through Ukraine.

"Ukraine must, in my opinion, play a role in the transit of gas to Europe", even after the start of Nord Stream 2 in 2019, the German chancellor said.

Kneissl, 53, who married businessman Wolfgang Meilinger, invited Putin to the ceremony when the Russian president was visiting Vienna this year, presidential advisor Yuri Ushakov said.

Speaking ahead of their meeting, the leaders touched on the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, where fighting between pro-Russian separatists and forces loyal to the Ukrainian government has killed more than 10,000 since 2014.

Addressing reporters at Meseberg Palace outside of Berlin before their talks, Merkel said she would also raise human rights issues and bilateral relations.

"We must acknowledge that we do not have a permanent ceasefire", the chancellor said.

The Iran nuclear deal, which was recently ditched by the United States, humanitarian efforts in war-ravaged Syria, and the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project...

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The invitation surprised many in Vienna and Moscow, particularly at a time when the European Union is at odds with Russian Federation over its annexation of the Crimea region from Ukraine, and other issues.

Putin also agreed co-ordinated steps with Trump at their Helsinki summit last month to try to stabilise the situation.

Putin told reporters that everything must be done to help Syrian refugees to return to their country and that Syria needed assistance to rebuild.

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Members of the country's Green Party are among those calling for the foreign minister to resign over Mr Putin's invitation.

'How is Austria's presidency of the European Union meant to live up to the government's own claims of building bridges (between the European Union and Russia) and being an honest broker, when Austria's foreign minister and chancellor are so obviously on one side?' asked MP Andreas Schieder of the opposition Social Democrats (SPOe).

Yet the foreign ministry insisted that Putin's visit "will not change anything in terms of Austria's foreign policy positions".

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies that Moscow rejected the criticism regarding Putin's presence at the wedding.

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