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May 8, 2014

Putin: Troops have pulled back from Ukraine border

(Continued)

DONETSK, Ukraine —

Russia annexed Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea in March after residents there held a vote and overwhelmingly backed secession.

“We believe that the most important thing is to create direct, full-fledged dialogue between the Kiev authorities and representatives of southeast Ukraine,” Putin said. “Because of this, we ask that representatives of southeast Ukraine, supporters of federalization in the country, postpone the May 11 referendum in order to create the necessary conditions for such a dialogue.”

A spokesman for the militant group in eastern Ukraine that calls itself the Donetsk People’s Republic was quoted by Russia’s ITAR-Tass news agency as saying the group would discuss Putin’s proposal today.

However, it is unclear how much influence Moscow has with the insurgents. The Kiev government and Western countries allege Russia is fomenting the unrest, but Russia denies it has agents there. Last month, after Russia, Ukraine, the U.S. and the European Union reached a pact calling for Ukrainian militants to disarm, the insurgents in the east flatly rejected it, saying Russia had not negotiated on their behalf.

Many Donetsk residents appear eager to go ahead with the vote.

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