German Chancellor Angela Merkel rebuffed U.S. pressure last month to conduct a naval maneuver in Russia's backyard aimed at provoking President Vladimir Putin, according to three people familiar with the talks.

At a February 16 meeting at the Munich Security Conference, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence urged Merkel to send German ships through a narrow channel between the Crimean peninsula and mainland Russia to show Putin that Western powers won't surrender their access to those waters, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Bloomberg said.

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The German leader declined, they said, citing reservations from Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.  A spokesman for the chancellor declined to comment.

Merkel had indicated she was willing, in coordination with the French, to send a convoy through the waterway as a one-time maneuver but Poroshenko said that wasn’t enough to solve his problem – he wants to ensure the strait is open permanently, the people said.

France also refused to take part, judging the idea as an unnecessary provocation, according to another official who declined to be identified.