Russian President Vladimir Putin has given his support to the Ukrainian presidential election on May 25 saying it is “a step in the right direction”.
However, he stressed that it would be unsuccessful if the rights of all citizens were not protected.
His comments came after a meeting with the Swiss president and current head of the OSCE, Didier Burkhalter, in Moscow.
Putin asked “pro-Russian representatives in south-eastern Ukraine, supporters of federalisation, to postpone the independence referendum scheduled for May 11 in order to create the necessary conditions for dialogue”.
The Russian president appeared to offer a more conciliatory tone than he has used in recent weeks. He said that his country’s troops had been pulled back from the border with Ukraine after ‘constant concerns’ over their deployment.
However, NATO has said it has “no indication of a change in the position of Russian military forces”.