Ukraine's Poroshenko sees increased risk of open war with Russia

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[February 03, 2016]  BERLIN (Reuters) - The risk of open war between Russia and Ukraine is greater than it was a year ago and Russian President Vladimir Putin has begun an "information war" against Germany, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told the German newspaper Bild.

Poroshenko, who met German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Monday, said Russia had implemented "not one single point" of the Minsk accord, which includes a ceasefire between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Russia was building up its military presence on the border with Ukraine, he said.

"The danger of an open war is greater than last year," Poroshenko told Bild, in an interview published in its Wednesday edition. "Russia is investing a great deal in war preparations."

Merkel pressed Putin by phone on Tuesday to use his influence to ensure that a ceasefire is upheld in Ukraine and that monitors from the OSCE European security organization are granted free access to conflict areas, her spokesman said.

Berlin is growing increasingly suspicious that Russia is trying to stir up trouble in Germany to try to weaken Merkel, who has taken a tough line on a crisis that was triggered when Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014.

German officials say Moscow hopes to destabilize Europe and create a vacuum into which it can project its own power.

"Now Putin has opened an information war against Germany as well," Poroshenko said.

German concerns about Moscow grew last month after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the German authorities of "sweeping problems under the rug" over an alleged rape case involving a German-Russian girl.

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The case of the 13-year-old, named only as Lisa F., caused controversy after she told police that she had been kidnapped in east Berlin last month by migrants who raped her while she was held for 30 hours.

The Berlin public prosecutor's office has since said a medical examination found she was not raped.

When asked if Russia had used the case to try to stir up tensions around immigration, Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin, told reporters on Wednesday: "We cannot agree with such accusations."

"On the contrary, we were keen that our position be understood, we were talking about a citizen of the Russian Federation," he added. "Any country expresses its concerns (in such cases). It would be wrong to look for any hidden agenda."

(Additional reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow; Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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