Russian President Putin 'scraps Ukraine military move'

Pro-Russian separatists with rocket-propelled grenades in eastern Ukraine. Photo: 19 June 2014 The rebels say they will not disarm until government troops have left eastern Ukraine

Russia's president has asked parliament to revoke the right of military intervention in Ukraine, where rebels have been fighting government troops.

Vladimir Putin's move was aimed at "normalising the situation" in the conflict-torn eastern regions of Ukraine, his press-secretary said.

The parliament authorised Mr Putin to use force in Ukraine on 1 March.

Ukraine said Mr Putin's latest move was a "first practical step" towards settling the crisis in the east.

In a statement, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stressed that this came after Mr Putin had officially supported Kiev's peace plan, which involved a ceasefire.

Since March, Moscow has annexed Ukraine's southern Crimea peninsula.

This was achieved with the help of troops without insignia. Despite initial denials, Mr Putin later admitted that they were Russian armed forces.

However, Moscow denies accusations by Kiev that Russian troops are helping and arming the separatists in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

'Choreographed plan'

On Tuesday, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Mr Putin had sent a letter to the upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, asking to revoke the right of military intervention in Ukraine.

Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, OSCE Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini and Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov meet Donetsk and Luhansk separatist leaders on 23 June Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma (second left), OSCE Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini (centre) and Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov joined the talks with the separatists

Mr Peskov said the move was linked to Monday's launch of talks between Kiev and separatist leaders in the east. Representatives from Russia and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe also took part in the meeting.

The separatists said afterwards that they would observe a ceasefire until Friday morning, responding to the unilateral truce declared by President Poroshenko.

The BBC's Daniel Sandford in Moscow says that Mr Putin's request to parliament could be voted in as soon as Wednesday, according to senior Russian officials.

This could be a very important choreographed plan to achieve peace in eastern Ukraine, our correspondent says.

It looks as if everybody is stepping back from the brink of an abyss or at least trying to, he adds.

Hundreds of people have been killed in fighting in eastern Ukraine.

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