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Putin's conciliatory gesture is welcomed by Ukrainians

President Vladimir Putin asked Russia's upper house yesterday to revoke the right it had granted him to order a military intervention in Ukraine in defence of Russian-speakers there, the Kremlin said in a statement.

The step seemed certain to be welcomed by the West as a sign that 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.

Putin's spokesman said the Kremlin leader's move was aimed at assisting fledgling peace talks, which began on Monday, to end the conflict. 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.

Putin's chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov, said Russia now expected Kiev to respond with measures of its own, without specifying what these should be.

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 various sanctions on Moscow.

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