U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will hold talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Paris today as President Vladimir Putin moves to avert further sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine.
The government in Kiev said yesterday that Russia was following through on Putin’s order on Oct. 11 to start pulling back troops from the Ukrainian border, calling it a step toward ending a six-month insurgency. Russia also softened its payment demands for natural gas supplies, which state-run OAO Gazprom cut in June, citing unpaid bills.
“The withdrawal of military units, especially aviation and armed vehicles, from the Ukrainian border is a positive process and it helps decrease tensions in the area,” Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko told reporters in the capital. The Kremlin said about 17,600 soldiers, on drills near the border since the summer, are returning to their bases.
Ukraine, the U.S. and the European Union accuse the government in Moscow of providing weapons, financing and troops to pro-Russian separatists in southeastern Ukraine, an allegation Moscow denies. The two sides imposed tit-for-tat sanctions that have slowed economic growth in both the EU and Russia, causing the latter to flirt with a recession.
The pro-Russian rebels attacked Ukrainian forces 30 times in the preceding 24 hours, the military press office in Kiev said on its Facebook page this morning. The targets included Donetsk airport and the city Mariupol along the Sea of Azov, according to the statement.