Seeking to allay concerns that Moscow was stoking the violence in eastern Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said Russia had withdrawn its troops from the border between the two nations. And in an unexpected development, he called on pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine to punt on a sovereignty referendum scheduled for May 11.
"We were told constantly about concerns over our troops near the Ukrainian border," Putin said, adding that they have been pulled back to "places of regular exercises, at training grounds."
Still, NATO said it had yet to see proof that Russian troops did indeed move away from the border. Until they see such proof, American and Ukrainian officials will likely remain dubious of whether Putin is genuinely trying to de-escalate the situation.