Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Putin blinks on Ukraine, withdraws troops from border

In the first conciliatory moves in weeks, Russian President Vladimir Putin came close to endorsing Ukraine’s May 25 elections and called on Russian separatists to postpone a referendum on independence.
The Washington Post quoted Putin on Wednesday as saying the national election “was a movement in the right direction.”
The New York Times said Putin had told a news conference that he was pulling his troops back from the Ukraine border. NATO told the BBC that it had seen no sign of troop movement.
A day earlier his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, had rejected holding new talks on ending the violence in Ukraine. Lavrov said the April settlement had failed.
“We are calling for southeast Ukraine representatives, supporters of federalization of the country, to postpone the May 11 referendum to create the necessary conditions for dialogue,” Putin said at a press conference with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s present chairman, Swiss President Didier Burkhalter in Moscow. A week earlier seven monitors from the OSCE had been released by Russian rebels who held them hostage for a week. Putin's government played a role in their release.
RT confirmed he had said the May 25 elections were a positive move. The official government station called the Putin announcements conciliatory, and aimed at reducing tension.
“The remarks were a significant shift in tone after weeks in which Putin and other top Russian officials had taken a hardline approach to the acting government in Kiev that took over after former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych fled his office after months of protests,” RT said.
The statements also followed renewed threats from German Chancellor Angela Merkle and US President Obama to impose sections that would target important areas of the Russian economy.
In Kiev, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko called for the creation of a self-defense force of volunteers to make up for the weakness of the country’s military after Yanukovych’s misrule.
Such an invitation could bring foreigners to help the new Ukrainian government. The Spanish Civil War was started when fascists tried to overturn the government. It brought in many volunteers from the US and the Soviet Union.
Tymoshenko, who was imprisoned by Yanykovch’s government, is a candidate for president, though not the leader in current polls.
The Euromaidan protests not only brought down Yanukovch, but brought her release. The Ukrainian parliament, known as the Rada, passed a law making the “crime” she was accused of committing no longer an offense.
In the past two weeks the Ukrainian military has sought, often with little success, to dislodge Russian rebels from eastern and southern cities. At least 60 people have died.
The West says Russian special forces have infiltrated, bringing ground-to-air missiles with them. At least four Ukrainian helicopters have been shot down.

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