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Germany's Merkel: EU needs to talk with Russia about relationship with eastern neighbors

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a joint press conference with the Prime Minister of Greece, Andonis Samaras, after a meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Nov. 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a joint press conference with the Prime Minister of Greece, Andonis Samaras, after a meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Nov. 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)  (The Associated Press)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the European Union needs to talk to Russia to ensure that the EU's eastern neighbors don't face political pressure to choose between friendship with the West or Moscow.

Merkel's comments in her weekly video message Saturday came after Ukraine's government said it was suspending plans to sign an agreement with the EU and focusing on restoring ties with Russia.

Merkel acknowledged that Russia views such deals with the EU as being directed against Moscow but "that is not the case." She stressed that Russia is "our strategic partner."

The German leader says she will discuss the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin at her next opportunity.

The EU is holding a summit next week in Vilnius, Lithuania of its "Eastern Partnership" with several eastern nations.