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
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
“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
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
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.