Russia Pulls Troops From Ukraine Border, Putin Says

Ukraine (May 7)  This starling news caused platinum and palladium to tumble badly. Platimum is down $20 to $$1436, while palladium was nearly in freefall down $19 to $799.

President Vladimir Putin said Russia pulled back its troops from the Ukrainian border after weeks of tension, a claim disputed by the U.S. and NATO. He also urged separatists in the country’s south and east to postpone planned May 11 plebiscites over regional autonomy.

The Donetsk and Luhansk regions should delay referendums in order to help “create the necessary conditions for dialogue” between pro-Russian forces in Ukraine and the government in Kiev, Putin said today in Moscow. He said Russian troops “are not on the Ukrainian border, they are in places where they conduct their regular drills.” U.S. officials said there was no evidence of a pull-back.

Putin also said violence in Ukraine must stop for any dialogue to begin, and voiced support for the presidential election Ukraine plans to hold on May 25, which Russia has previously criticized.

Ukraine’s government and its U.S. and European allies have accused Russia of fomenting separatist unrest in eastern Ukraine, and warned that Putin may follow his annexation of Crimea with another land-grab against his neighbor. The Russian leader’s speech today may ease those tensions, and have sparked a rally on Russian and Ukrainian financial markets, though his comments on troop withdrawals couldn’t immediately be verified.

Ukraine’s border service said that it wasn’t able to determine whether the Russian army was pulling troops back, and that military drills near the frontier continued. Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren told reporters today that “we have seen no change in the Russian force posture along the Ukrainian border.”