Russian media have reported that President Putin intends to revoke a resolution that allowed Russia to intervene in Ukraine. He originally requested the power in March in order to protect ethnic Russians in the country.
The Russian president's power to authorize a military intervention in Ukraine would end on June 25, according to reports published by the country's media on Tuesday. President Vladimir Putin reportedly requested that the Russian Federation Council to cancel the resolution, originally issued at the beginning of March, in a bid to regain trust ahead of three-way negotiations with Kyiv and the EU.
"In the aim of normalizing the atmosphere and resolving the situation in the eastern regions of Ukraine…on this issue, a request was sent to the Federation Council to cancel the resolution," Putin's spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, was quoted as saying by Russian media.
On March1, Putin had requested the power to deploy troops to the region "pending the normalization of the socio-political situation [in Ukraine," he said.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko hailed the decision as "the first practical step" toward peace.
Tensions between Moscow and Kyiv rose in late February following the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, an ally of Putin's. The installment of a caretaker government was met with concern among some of Ukraine's ethnic Russian population on the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea. They feared not only political instability, but also an infringement on their rights by the new lawmakers, among which were also right-wing politicians.
Western leaders and Kyiv contend that Putin seized on the opportunity to stoke those fears and bolster a separatist movement, which then led to the annexation of Crimea and, shortly thereafter, a violent separatist movement in eastern Ukraine.
Putin's decision on Tuesday followed numerous calls by Western leaders for him to support a peace plan by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. He has said that while he supported an end to the fighting, the peace plan was not viable.
Over the weekend, Kyiv and NATO also reported increased Russian troop activity along the Ukrainian border. Many believe that the separatists in eastern Ukraine are receiving logistical support from Russia, as well.
Steinmeier in Kyiv
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier travelled to the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday to meet with Poroshenko and other top officials.
He called for observers from Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to oversee the cease-fire in Ukraine. Russia should also take part in the observer mission, Steinmeier said, but only in exchange for the safe return of eight kidnapped OSCE monitors.
Ahead of his departure, he told reporters in Brussels, where he was attending a meeting of European Union foreign ministers, that this week could be "decisive" for the future of Ukraine.
kms/pfd (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)