- Merkel and most other Western leaders boycotted Russian military celebrations on Saturday
- Moscow is accused by Kiev and the West of backing and equipping pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine
Her visit was a conciliatory gesture after she and most other Western leaders boycotted Russian military celebrations on Saturday in protest of Russia's alleged military involvement in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
Moscow is accused by Kiev and the West of backing and equipping pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. It also annexed Ukraine's Crimea region a little over a year ago.
"I have come to Moscow during a difficult phase of the Russian-German relations because it was important to me, on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, to pay respects to those killed in that war," Merkel told reporters.
She said that Russia's annexation of Crimea was illegal and had damaged Russia's relationship with Europe.
Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized EU sanctions imposed over Ukraine and spoke about the economic fallout.
"It's not a secret that the relations between Russia and Germany today are going through a bad period because of differences in the assessment of the events in Ukraine. Our bilateral trade in 2014 for the first time in five years fell by 6.5%," he said.
Russia marked 70 years since the victory over Nazi Germany on Saturday with a spectacular parade in Moscow's Red Square featuring some 16,000 soldiers, 200 armored vehicles and 150 planes and helicopters.
It was expected to be the last major anniversary of the conflict when significant numbers of World War II veterans were still alive to take part.