Ukraine confirms Russian troop pullout from border ahead of polls
Published on May 20, 2014 9:08 PM
KIEV (AFP) - Ukraine confirmed on Tuesday that Russia had pulled its troops back from the border for the first time in a move that could ease spiralling tensions five days ahead of a make-or-break presidential poll.
The state border service's surprise announcement that none of the estimated 40,000 soldiers were now stationed within 10 kilometres of Ukraine has the potential to deflate the bloody Kremlin-backed insurgency that threatens to tear the ex-Soviet nation apart.
The provisional Western-backed leaders in Kiev won another boost on Tuesday when Ukraine's richest tycoon Rinat Akhmetov denounced the armed rebels who have overrun a dozen cities in his eastern industrial power base as bandits who might create "genocide".
The turmoil that began with the popular overthrow in February of a pro-Russian leader and then saw Kremlin forces retaliate by annexing the Crimean peninsula has plunged East-West relations to post-Cold War lows and stoked fears of all-out civil conflict.
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