Russian Forces Withdraw From Ukraine Border

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A pro-Russia rebel wearing a gas mask places a Russian flag on the balcony of the city hall in Mariupol, eastern Ukraine

President Vladimir Putin has said that Russia has withdrawn its forces from its border with east Ukraine, Reuters reports.

Mr Putin also called on separatists in east Ukraine to postpone a referendum on independence for the mostly Russian-speaking region.

His call comes five days before the vote on secession was due to take place.

Several towns and cities in east Ukraine have come under the control of separatists, who are seeking independence from Kiev.

The Russian leader said: “We call on the representatives of southeastern Ukraine, the supporters of the federalisation of the country, to postpone the referendum planned for May 11.

“We’re always being told that our forces on the Ukrainian border are a concern. We have withdrawn them.

“Today they are not on the Ukrainian border, they are in places where they conduct their regular tasks on training grounds.”

Putin made his comments after talks with the head of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), who said a “road map” would soon be put forward to defuse the Ukraine crisis.

The Pentagon and Nato both said they had no indication Russian military forces had withdrawn from the Ukraine border as yet.

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