David Cameron and Angela Merkel held a working dinner last night in Hanover ahead of their visit to a digital trade fair today. Naturally, they discussed Ukraine, and Number 10′s readout of the call this morning says ‘they both agreed that the priority is to de-escalate the situation and to get Russia to engage in a contact group as swiftly as possible’. Cameron also spoke to Vladimir Putin yesterday, with the Russian President telling the Prime Minister that ‘Russia did want to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis’ – although presumably in Putin’s mind that doesn’t involve quite the same level of compromise as those words might initially suggest.

Number 10 says Merkel and Cameron last night agreed that ‘any attempt by Russia to legitimise the result [of the referendum] would result in further consequences’. Putin is discussing the proposals on the contact group with his foreign minister Sergei Lavrov today.

The question is what will ‘de-escalate’ the situation? William Hague admitted yesterday that the sanctions drawn up by EU leaders last week, billed by David Cameron as tougher than expected, wouldn’t force Russian troops from Crimea. That’s earned him a scathing headline in the Sun this morning – ‘Charge of the lightweight brigade’.

Listen to Anne Applebaum debate Matthew Parris on what can and should be done about Russia’s actions in Crimea on our podcast:

Tags: Angela Merkel, David Cameron, Russia, Ukraine