Russian President Putin denies a rift with Germany's Merkel

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MOSCOW — A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel says it's important to continue talking with Russia's president despite disagreements about Ukraine.

The comment followed the release of an interview with President Vladimir Putin in which he denied any rift with Merkel.

German government spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz said Friday that Merkel "has been talking with the Russian president for weeks and months, since the beginning of the crisis" and "listens to what the Russian president has to say."

As the cease-fire in Ukraine effectively collapsed and convoys of unidentified weaponry were recently seen in rebel-held areas, some European leaders called for more sanctions against Russia and the separatists it backs.

Merkel indicated earlier this week that she favors putting more rebel leaders on the sanctions list but stopped short of advocating more economic sanctions against Moscow.

In an interview with the state-owned news agency TASS, Putin said he "has not noticed" any rift between him and Merkel.

He added that in its policies, Russia is "guided by interests, not personal sympathies or antipathies."

Geir Moulson contributed to this report from Berlin.

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