Merkel congratulates Ukraine's new premier, 'concerned' over Crimea

Chancellor Angela Merkel has congratulated crisis-hit Ukraine's new interim prime minister and assured him of Germany's support, while voicing concern over spiralling tensions in Russian-leaning Crimea, a spokeswoman said Friday.

Merkel congratulated pro-EU premier Arseniy Yatsenyuk on Thursday, deputy government spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz said, adding that the new premier's broad parliamentary backing was an "encouraging sign".

"The chancellor already congratulated Mr Yatsenyuk yesterday," Wirtz told reporters.

"She emphasised that the European Union and Germany will do everything to support this new elected government," she added.

Yatsenyuk was one of the most prominent leaders of the three-month anti-government protests that swept Ukraine.

The unrest culminated in deadly violence last week that precipitated the ouster of president Viktor Yanukovych and the collapse of his government.

Wirtz also said that "events in Crimea are of great concern" to Merkel, after Ukraine on Friday accused Russia of invading the strategic peninsula when pro-Kremlin gunmen took control of its main airport.

Asked about a possible freezing of Ukrainian assets in Germany, after a similar move by neighbouring Austria and Switzerland, a finance ministry spokesman declined to comment.