Several weeks after the European Union approved new sanctions against Russia, Merkel instead advocated for getting Russia to work for a political resolution to the conflict.
"I've always advocated cooperating constructively with Russia and I'm ready to do so in future," she told the Saechsische Zeitung newspaper.
Merkel, who speaks fluent Russian, said she's been "working very hard to keep the lines of communication open" with the Kremlin.
"For constructive relations it takes more than one," she said. "I have always called for constructive cooperation with Russia and will continue to do so in future."
The chancellor stressed that her willingness to speak to Putin didn't translate into approval for Russia's takeover of Crimea or its alleged intervention in the uprising in Eastern Ukraine.
The basic consensus, she said, is "that we Europeans respect the territorial integrity of our states -- that we don't unilaterally change borders."
"If such an annexation, which violates international law, were to become a political instrument that were accepted without challenge, then everything that has allowed us to live in peace and prosperity for half a century would be in danger," she continued. "That is why we do not accept Russia's actions."
Germany's interest in cooperating with Russia, however, is not merely political. The two nations had trade ties worth nearly 90 billion euros ($120 billion) last year, and Germany has typically resisted broad sanctions for that reason.