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Putin orders some troops to pull back from Ukraine border

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A partial withdrawal of troops from the build up on the border with Ukraine has been ordered by President Vladimir Putin according to the Russian leader, euronews reports.

It is not clear if it amounts to a significant pullback or just a token gesture.

It is believed Russia has some 40,000 troops massed near its border with eastern Ukraine.

If the pullback is just a battalion, which is around 700 men, then that will hardly alter Russia’s capabilities.

While diplomatic efforts continue, the troop presence is causing alarm and on Monday the foreign ministers of Germany France and Poland called for an international conference to be held on Ukraine, with Russia to be included.

Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier said forced land-grabs should be unthinkable today:

“A hundred years after the start of World War One, 75 years after the start of World War Two, 70 years after the end of World War Two and 25 years after the Cold War, there cannot be any place in this century for border corrections which could develop into new conflicts.”

Whatever Russia’s intentions for other parts of Ukraine, Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev confirmed Moscow’s grip on Crimea by flying to the region, promising to make it a special economic zone.

Meanwhile NATO will decide today on new steps to support eastern European countries worried by what they see as Russian aggression.

April 1 2014, 17:59

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