December 21, 2014
Putin renounces right to send troops to Ukraine
Russian president Vladimir Putin asked the nation's upper house to revoke the right it had granted him to order a military intervention in Ukraine in defence of Russian-speakers there.
Minutes before he spoke, Kiev said pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraine had shot down a military helicopter, most likely killing all nine on board. It was the most serious breach of a temporary truce agreed in talks between government and rebels less than 24 hours earlier.
Putin's move received a cautious welcome in the West as a sign Moscow was ready to help engineer a settlement in Ukraine's largely Russian-speaking east, where a pro-Russian uprising against Kiev began in April.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called it a "first practical step" following Putin's statement of support last weekend for Poroshenko's peace plan for eastern Ukraine.
But Putin himself said he now expected Ukraine to begin talks on guaranteeing the rights of its Russian-speaking minority, which Russia would continue to defend.
"It is not enough to announce a ceasefire," he told reporters on a visit to Vienna. "A substantive discussion of the essence of the problems is essential."
In the March 1 resolution, the Federation Council had granted Putin the right to "use the Russian Federation's Armed Forces on the territory of Ukraine until the social and political situation in that country normalises".
That resolution, together with Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, helped push East-West relations to their lowest ebb since the Cold War and led the United States and Europe to impose sanctions on Moscow.
The Federation Council was due to discuss its reversal on Wednesday and was expected to approve the proposal.
NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said: "We expect Russia to withdraw its troops and military infrastructure from the Ukrainian border, end its support for armed separatist groups, and the flow of weapons and mercenaries across its border, as well as denounce publicly separatist violence in Ukraine."