Russian lawmakers cancel OK for Ukraine force
MOSCOW (AP) -- On Russian President Vladimir Putin's request, the upper house of Russian parliament on Wednesday canceled a resolution allowing the use of military in Ukraine.
The vote comes a day after Putin asked lawmakers to rescind his earlier request for using troops in Ukraine. He said that his move is intended to help support peace process in Ukraine, which began a weeklong cease-fire Friday.
Putin needs to show his support for Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's peace plan ahead of Friday's European Union summit to avoid further Western sanctions. The EU has warned it could introduce new sanctions that would target entire sectors of the Russian economy if Moscow fails to help de-escalate the crisis.
On Tuesday, Putin urged Ukraine to extend the truce and sit down for talks with the rebels. He argued that the Ukrainian demand that the insurgents lay down their weapons within a week was unrealistic, explaining that they would be reluctant to disarm for fear of government reprisals. He also called on Ukraine to adopt constitutional amendments and other legal changes that would protect the rights of Russian-speakers in the east.
The cease-fire has been repeatedly broken by sporadic clashes, and it was violated again Tuesday when rebels used a shoulder-fired missile to down a Ukrainian military helicopter, killing nine. The attack, which came after the rebels pledged to respect the cease-fire, prompted Poroshenko to warn that he may end the truce ahead of time.
Putin's March 1 request to parliament for the use of military in Ukraine came days after Ukraine's pro-Russian president was chased from power following months of street protests. Russia sent troops that quickly overran Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, setting the stage for Russia to annex it after a hastily called referendum.
In April, a mutiny erupted in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian insurgents seized official buildings, declared their regions independent and fought government troops.
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