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Putin says troops removed from Ukraine border

Russian troops have pulled back from the Ukrainian border, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday.

By Ed Adamczyk
Putin says troops removed from Ukraine border

MOSCOW, May 7 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday the 40,000 troops stationed at Russia’s border with Ukraine have been withdrawn. His statement came after meeting with Swiss President Didier Burkhalter, current leader of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

“We were told constantly about concerns over our troops near the Ukrainian border,” Putin said. “We have pulled them back. Today they are not on the Ukrainian border but in places of regular exercises, at training grounds.”

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The troops were installed at the border after Ukraine deposed President Viktor Yanukovych in February. Putin has stressed Moscow would intervene if it was felt Ukraine’s large ethnic Russian population was threatened. After sending Russian troops into Crimea under cover, the area was annexed by Russia, and Western governments have accused Russia of initiating the unrest from which Putin has promised to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine.

Putin also urged separatists in eastern Ukraine to forgo a planned May 11 referendum on the region’s future. Militants who seized government buildings in cities across Ukraine claimed a referendum would resolve public sentiment on whether annexation by Russia would be acceptable to Ukraine’s fragmented population.

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