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As Putin Talks Near, Both Sides Take Steps to Defuse Ukraine Tension

As Putin Talks Near, Both Sides Take Steps to Defuse Ukraine Tension

Russian and Ukrainian officials on Sunday continued a series of measured steps aimed at decreasing tensions before the countries’ presidents meet this week to discuss the six-month conflict in Ukraine’s east.

Despite the continuing fighting over disputed territories, President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine said he believed that a full cease-fire could soon be achieved under a peace plan that he and Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, had endorsed.

On Sunday, Russian news agencies reported that Mr. Putin had ordered troops deployed on the Ukrainian border to return to their bases.

It was the second time this year that Mr. Putin had announced that military exercises along the Ukrainian border had been completed and that 17,600 soldiers would be withdrawn to their usual bases.

Mr. Putin ordered the pullback from the Rostov region, which borders Ukraine, in a meeting with his defense minister, Sergei K. Shoigu, the Interfax news agency reported, citing Mr. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov.

The presence of Russian troops along the border was seen by the West as a possible preparation for an invasion of Ukraine, or as a staging ground for Russian troops to secretly fight alongside Ukraine’s separatists. Russia has denied both allegations.

In May, Mr. Putin announced in a meeting with diplomats from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that a military exercise in western Russia near the border with Ukraine had been completed and that soldiers would withdraw from the region, though many remained.

Mr. Poroshenko said on Sunday that he expected “difficult negotiations” with Mr. Putin when the two meet in Milan for the Asia-Europe Meeting this week.

In a transcript of an address published on his official website, Mr. Poroshenko said that he desired “unshakable independence, territorial integrity, inviolability of borders, and the restoration of peace.”

Read More:As Putin Talks Near, Both Sides Take Steps to Defuse Ukraine Tension – NYTimes.com.

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