Putin says Russian troops pull back from Ukraine border

BY newsdesk  May 7, 2014 at 12:15 PM EST

Vladimir Putin told diplomats Wednesday that Russian troops have been pulled back from the Ukrainian border. Putin also called on Ukraine’s military to halt all operations against pro-Russia activists who have seized government buildings and police stations in at least a dozen towns in eastern Ukraine, reports the Associated Press.

Reuters is reporting that the White House says there is no evidence that Russia has withdrawn troops from the border.

Last week, Ukraine launched an offensive to take back towns from insurgents. At least 35 people, including many rebels, have died in that offensive, the government said.

Pro-Russia insurgents had planned for a referendum on autonomy for eastern regions on Sunday, but Putin has urged a postponement.

“We believe that the most important thing is to create direct, full-fledged dialogue between the Kiev authorities and representatives of southeast Ukraine,” Putin said. “Because of this, we ask that representatives of southeast Ukraine, supporters of federalization in the country, postpone the May 11 referendum in order to create the necessary conditions for such a dialogue.”

Many fear that Sunday’s vote would be a flashpoint for further violence between the rebels and Ukrainian troops.

Russia annexed Crimea in March after residents held a vote and overwhelmingly backed secession.