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Ukraine

Putin: Troops have pulled back

U.S. military sees no evidence of it

  • Men carry the coffin of a person killed during last week's unrest, during a commemorative service in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

    Men carry the coffin of a person killed during last week's unrest, during a commemorative service in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

  • Relatives mourn in front of the coffins of four people killed in last week's operation, during a commemorative service in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

    Relatives mourn in front of the coffins of four people killed in last week's operation, during a commemorative service in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

  • Relatives mourn in front of coffins of four people killed during clashes last week between Ukrainian and pre-Russian forces, during a commemoration service in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014.  The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

    Relatives mourn in front of coffins of four people killed during clashes last week between Ukrainian and pre-Russian forces, during a commemoration service in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

  • Pro-Russian gunmen carry the coffin of a person killed during clashes last week between Ukrainian and pre-Russian forces, during a commemoration service in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions.  (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

    Pro-Russian gunmen carry the coffin of a person killed during clashes last week between Ukrainian and pre-Russian forces, during a commemoration service in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

  • People shout slogans during a commemoration service of four people killed during clashes last week between Ukrainian and pre-Russian forces, in the centre of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014.  The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

    People shout slogans during a commemoration service of four people killed during clashes last week between Ukrainian and pre-Russian forces, in the centre of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

  • People shout slogans during a commemoration service of four people killed during clashes last week between Ukrainian and pre-Russian forces, in the centre of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014.  The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

    People shout slogans during a commemoration service of four people killed during clashes last week between Ukrainian and pre-Russian forces, in the centre of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

  • An Orthodox priest attends a religious ceremony in front of the coffins of four people killed during last week's operation, in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

    An Orthodox priest attends a religious ceremony in front of the coffins of four people killed during last week's operation, in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

  • Relatives mourn in front of the casket of a person killed during clashes between Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces last week, during a commemoration service in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014.  The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

    Relatives mourn in front of the casket of a person killed during clashes between Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces last week, during a commemoration service in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

  • Relatives mourn in front of the casket of a person killed during last week's operation, during a commemorative service in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

    Relatives mourn in front of the casket of a person killed during last week's operation, during a commemorative service in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

  • An Orthodox priest sprinkles water during a religious ceremony in front of the coffins of four people killed during last week's operation, in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

    An Orthodox priest sprinkles water during a religious ceremony in front of the coffins of four people killed during last week's operation, in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

  • Pro-Russian gunmen carry the coffin of a person killed during last week's operation, during a commemorative service in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions.  (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

    Pro-Russian gunmen carry the coffin of a person killed during last week's operation, during a commemorative service in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

  • Ukrainian presidential candidate and businessman Petro Poroshenko briefs the media after a meeting with Germany's Christian Union's faction law makers in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The Ukrainian government is planing a presidential election on May 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

    Ukrainian presidential candidate and businessman Petro Poroshenko briefs the media after a meeting with Germany's Christian Union's faction law makers in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The Ukrainian government is planing a presidential election on May 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Swiss Federal President Didier Burkhalter shake hands at their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Sergei Karpukhin, Pool)

    Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Swiss Federal President Didier Burkhalter shake hands at their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Sergei Karpukhin, Pool)

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, heads to meet with Swiss Federal President Didier Burkhalter in the Kremlin in Moscow, Wednesday, May 7, 2014.  From left, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and President's aide Yury Ushakov. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin, Presidential Press Service)

    Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, heads to meet with Swiss Federal President Didier Burkhalter in the Kremlin in Moscow, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. From left, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and President's aide Yury Ushakov. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin, Presidential Press Service)

  • Men carry the coffin of a person killed during last week's unrest, during a commemorative service in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
  • Relatives mourn in front of the coffins of four people killed in last week's operation, during a commemorative service in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
  • Relatives mourn in front of coffins of four people killed during clashes last week between Ukrainian and pre-Russian forces, during a commemoration service in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014.  The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
  • Pro-Russian gunmen carry the coffin of a person killed during clashes last week between Ukrainian and pre-Russian forces, during a commemoration service in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions.  (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
  • People shout slogans during a commemoration service of four people killed during clashes last week between Ukrainian and pre-Russian forces, in the centre of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014.  The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
  • People shout slogans during a commemoration service of four people killed during clashes last week between Ukrainian and pre-Russian forces, in the centre of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014.  The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
  • An Orthodox priest attends a religious ceremony in front of the coffins of four people killed during last week's operation, in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
  • Relatives mourn in front of the casket of a person killed during clashes between Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces last week, during a commemoration service in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014.  The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
  • Relatives mourn in front of the casket of a person killed during last week's operation, during a commemorative service in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
  • An Orthodox priest sprinkles water during a religious ceremony in front of the coffins of four people killed during last week's operation, in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
  • Pro-Russian gunmen carry the coffin of a person killed during last week's operation, during a commemorative service in the center of Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The U.S. and European nations have increased diplomatic efforts ahead of Ukraine's May 25 presidential election, as a pro-Russian insurgency continues to rock the country's eastern regions.  (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
  • Ukrainian presidential candidate and businessman Petro Poroshenko briefs the media after a meeting with Germany's Christian Union's faction law makers in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The Ukrainian government is planing a presidential election on May 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Swiss Federal President Didier Burkhalter shake hands at their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. (AP Photo/Sergei Karpukhin, Pool)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, heads to meet with Swiss Federal President Didier Burkhalter in the Kremlin in Moscow, Wednesday, May 7, 2014.  From left, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and President's aide Yury Ushakov. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin, Presidential Press Service)

Russia has pulled back its troops from the Ukrainian border, Vladimir Putin told diplomats yesterday as he urged insurgents in southeastern Ukraine to postpone their planned referendum Sunday on autonomy. But the U.S. military said it had seen no sign of a Russian troop pullback.

“We’ve seen no change in the Russian force posture along the Ukrainian border,” said a Pentagon spokesman, U.S. Army Col. Steve Warren. Without commenting on how the U.S. is monitoring activity along the border, Warren said “we would know” if Russian troops were on the move.

In a Moscow meeting with Swiss President Didier Burkhalter, Putin said the Russian troops have been pulled back to their training grounds and locations for “regular exercises” but didn’t specify whether those locations were in areas near Ukraine. A Defense Ministry spokesman declined to say where the troops were now positioned.

Putin also called on Ukraine’s military to halt all operations against pro-Russia activists who have seized government buildings and police stations in at least a dozen towns in eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine launched a government offensive late last week to take back buildings and towns under control of the insurgents. At least 35 people, including many rebels, have died in that offensive, the government said.

Many had feared that Sunday’s vote on more autonomy would be a flashpoint for further violence between the rebels and Ukrainian troops in the east. Russia annexed the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula of Crimea in March after residents held a vote and overwhelmingly backed secession.

“We believe that the most important thing is to create direct, full-fledged dialogue between the Kiev authorities and representatives of southeast Ukraine,” Putin said. “Because of this, we ask that representatives of southeast Ukraine, supporters of federalization in the country, postpone the May 11 referendum in order to create the necessary conditions for such a dialogue.”

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