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Putin says Russia will respect Ukraine vote

Russian president says Moscow will respect outcome of Sunday's vote as defence official says forces will be pulled back.

Last updated: 24 May 2014 02:29
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Putin said Russia did not want to isolate itself from the rest of the world [Reuters]

Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced that Moscow will recognise the outcome of Ukraine's presidential vote this weekend.

Speaking at an investment forum in St Petersburg on Friday, Putin said Russia would "respect the choice of the Ukrainian people" and would work with the new leadership.

He said he was upbeat on the prospects for resolving the crisis in Ukraine and that doing so would help improve relations with the United States.

"I'm an optimist. I am not losing faith that the situation in Ukraine will at some point become normal and we will find the inner strength to normalise relations (with the United States)," the Reuters news agency reported.

He also said that Russia did not want to isolate itself from the rest of the world and that it wanted to work with the United States on many projects.

"We are not planning any self-isolation," Putin said. "We hope that common sense ... will prompt our European and US partners to work with Russia,"

Troops 'to withdraw'

Russia will also pull back all forces deployed to regions near its border with Ukraine "within a few days," a deputy defence minister said on Friday, a move that if carried out could assist to ease tensions.

Moscow has concentrated tens of thousands of troops across the border from eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists have declared two independent states.

The United States said a "very large and very capable" Russian force remained on Friday.

Kiev and its Western allies see the Russian troops as a potential invasion force should Moscow choose to back the rebels openly.

Meanwhile, in a live televised address from Kiev, acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov, who is not running in Sunday's presidential vote amid a surge of attacks by pro-Russian separatists in the country's east, emphasised the importance of choosing a new leader.

"Today, we are building a new European country the foundation of which was laid by millions of Ukrainians who proved that they are capable of defending their own choice and their country," Turchynov said, the AP news agency reported.

"We will never allow anyone to rob us of our freedom and independence, turn our Ukraine into a part of the post-Soviet empire."

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