19th Mar 2018

West sceptical of Putin’s u-turn on Ukraine

The US and Nato have voiced wariness over Russia’s announcement that it pulled back troops from Ukraine’s border.

Reacting to the statement by Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Wednesday (7 May), US state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told press in Washington: “We have not seen evidence of such movement to date … As you know, Russia made similar claims back in March and didn’t deliver on that promise at that time.”

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Putin spoke to press after meeting the Swiss President in Moscow (Photo:

She said Putin’s call for pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, to postpone an 11 May referendum on independence and his endorsement of Ukraine’s 25 May presidential elections are “a helpful step”.

But she added the 11 May referendum is “illegal” and should be cancelled. She also said: “There is far more that President Putin and the Russians can do to de-escalate the situation and to ensure safe elections … They can refrain from any interference with election preparations. They can use their influence on the armed militants who are taking steps to interfere with that preparation process.”

She noted the US and the EU are continuing preparatory work on economic sanctions against Russia if the situation deteriorates.

Meanwhile, the White House the same day announced it is cancelling preferential tariffs on Russian imports under the so-called Generalised System of Preferences because “Russia is sufficiently advanced economically that it no longer warrants preferential treatment”.

Putin made his announcement after a meeting with Swiss President Didier Burkhalter in Moscow.

He said: “We have withdrawn our forces and they are now not on the Ukrainian border, but are carrying out their regular exercises at test grounds. This can be easily verified using modern intelligence techniques, including from space, where everything can be seen.”

He “appealed” to separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine “to hold off the referendum scheduled for May 11” for the sake of peace talks and called the 25 May presidential vote “a step in the right direction.”

He added that authorities in Kiev should hold talks with separatists in a “direct, fully-fledged and equal dialogue” on creating a federal Ukraine.

His endorsement of the 25 May election represents a u-turn on previous statements that the vote is invalid because parts of the country are in turmoil and because Ukraine's ousted leader, Viktor Yanukovych, is still its legitimate president. But his call for rebels to be treated as equals raises the prospect of a divided Ukraine which cannot progress on EU integration.

For their part, Donetsk and Luhansk militants said they will put the Kremlin's appeal to a local vote. "We respect Putin's stance … He is a balanced politician. Therefore we will submit his proposal to the people's council,” Denis Pushilin, a pro-Russian leader in Donetsk, who is on an EU blacklist, said.

But Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen also gave Russia little credit in remarks in Warsaw on Wednesday.

He said that to “compare what happened in Kiev in February [the overthrow of Yanukovych] with what is happening today in eastern Ukraine is totally misleading and, coming from Russia, hypocritical.”

He added: “Public protests against any government are a part of democracy, but the violent pro-Russian separatists armed with heavy weapons who occupy public buildings and take hostages are not part of democracy, and if these groups swear allegiance to Russia, whose troops are massed on Ukraine’s border, that is not democracy.”

He pledged to hold more drills and station more military assets in former Soviet and Communist Nato member states to reassure them they are safe from Russia.

“Nato’s greatest responsibility is to protect and defend our populations and territory, and let me be clear: Nato stands by Poland,” he said.

Back in Brussels, top EU officials Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso threatened further sanctions if Putin continues to destabilise Ukraine.

Speaking shortly before Putin’s announcement, Van Rompuy noted that Japan, whose PM, Shinzo Abe, was in the EU capital for trade talks, has also blacklisted 23 Russians and is ready to go further if need be.

Abe noted that Japan is sending 10 observers to the 25 May elections and said: "We call on Russia to follow the diplomatic path”.

Russian singers booed at Eurovision

Russia's representatives at the Eurovision song contest in Copenhagen were booed when they qualified for the finale, a reflection of Europe's growing anger at Vladimir Putin.

Russia driving up euro, says Draghi

The Russian-Ukrainian crisis is contributing to a strong euro, along with low inflation and weak demand, said European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi.


Four years on – but we will not forget illegally-occupied Crimea

Together with many other partners, including the United States, Canada and Norway, the European Union has implemented a policy of non-recognition and sanctions regimes, targeting people and entities that have promoted Russia's illegal annexation.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceConmtroversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  2. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  5. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  6. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  7. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  8. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  9. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?
  10. European Jewish CongressThe 2018 European Medal of Tolerance Goes to Prince Albert II of Monaco
  11. FiscalNoteGlobal Policy Trends: What to Watch in 2018
  12. Human Rights and Democracy NetworkPromoting Human Rights and Democracy in the Next Eu Multiannual Financial Framework

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUDigital Cooperation a Priority for China-EU Relations
  2. ECTACompetition must prevail in the quest for telecoms investment
  3. European Friends of ArmeniaTaking Stock of 30 Years of EU Policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: How Can the EU Contribute to Peace?
  4. ILGA EuropeCongratulations Finland!
  5. EUobserverNow Hiring! Sales Associate With 2+ Years Experience
  6. EUobserverNow Hiring! Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience
  7. UNICEFCyclone Season Looms Over 720,000 Rohingya Children in Myanmar & Bangladesh
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationEU Court: EU Commission Correct to Issue Guidelines for Online Gambling Services
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina Hopes for More Exchanges With Nordic, Baltic Countries
  10. Macedonian Human Rights MovementCondemns Facebook for Actively Promoting Anti-Macedonian Racism
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal Seed Vault: Gene Banks Gather to Celebrate 1 Million Seed Collections
  12. CECEIndustry Stakeholders Are Ready to Take the Lead in Digital Construction