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Putin calls for end to Kiev's military op, postponing referendum in E. Ukraine

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Ukrainian right-wing groups are behind the recent events in the country, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, adding that Kiev has not disarmed them. He also called on anti-Kiev protesters to postpone a May 11 federalization referendum.

"Russia believes that the crisis, which originated in Ukraine and is now actively developing in accordance with the worst-case scenario, is to be blamed on those who organized the coup in Kiev on 22-23 February and still do not care to disarm the right-wing and nationalist elements," the president said.

Direct dialogue between Kiev and anti-government protesters in southeast Ukraine is key to ending the crisis, Putin said.

It is now essential to create "to create the necessary conditions for this dialogue," he added.

This, however, would require rescheduling the referendum, which anti-government activists scheduled on May 11 to determine the fate of southeast Ukraine.

"We are calling for southeast Ukraine representatives, supporters of federalization of the country, to postpone the May 11 referendum to create the necessary conditions for dialogue," Putin said at a press conference with OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Swiss President Didier Burkhalter in Moscow.

In response to Putin's offer, one of the leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, Denis Pushilin, said the possibility would be discussed Thursday.

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"We respect Putin's position. He is a balanced politician. So we will submit this proposal tomorrow to the people's council," he said.

'Russia withdraws troops from Ukrainian border'

President Vladimir Putin also said that Russia has withdrawn its troops from the Ukrainian border.
"We have been told that our troops on the Ukrainian border are a concern -- we have withdrawn them. They are now not on Ukrainian territory, but at locations where they conduct regular drills at ranges," he said.

Earlier, German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested holding "roundtable discussions," a proposal that Moscow fully supports, Putin added.

Moscow and the OSCE agree substantially on the approach to resolving the situation in Ukraine, Putin said, adding that negotiations had made it clear.

"Moscow is interested in a swift resolution of the crisis in Ukraine, taking into consideration the interests of all people of the country," he said.

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OSCE drafting Ukraine roadmap

In the coming hours, OSCE will offer a "roadmap" on Ukraine, Burkhalter said.

"Our offer now is the following: literally in the next few hours we would like to offer a roadmap for the four signatories of the Geneva agreements," Burkhalter said, adding that the roadmap lays out "concrete steps" to resolve the Ukrainian crisis.

There are four major points, he said: "These are the ceasefire, the de-escalation of tensions, the dialogue and elections." Burkhalter added that the roadmap had been discussed earlier in Vienna.

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