Putin announces `no` Russian troops on Ukraine border

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that there were no Russian troops left on the Ukrainian border.

Moscow/Kiev: Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that there were no Russian troops left on the Ukrainian border even as acting Ukrainian President counterpart Alexandr Turchynov discussed the situation in the former Soviet republic with the UN political chief.

"We pulled them (troops) back. They no longer stay on the Ukrainian border but are in their bases and at training ranges," Putin said after meeting Didier Burkhalter, chairperson-in-office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

He argued that Russia should not be seen as a party involved in the ongoing Ukrainian conflict, saying "the parties are inside Ukraine", Xinhua reported.

The president demanded that Kiev authorities "immediately halt all military punitive operations in the southeastern regions of Ukraine."

Russia has also called on representatives of Ukraine`s southeastern regions to postpone the referendum scheduled for May 11, in a bid "to create necessary conditions for dialogue" with Kiev. 

In Kiev, Ukrainian acting President Turchynov held talks Wednesday with Jeffrey Feltman, the UN under secretary-general for political affairs, centering on political issues and the security situation in Ukraine.

The talks focused on the ongoing violence in the eastern part of the country and the upcoming presidential elections scheduled for May 25, Xinhua reported citing a statement issued by parliament`s press service.

Noting that the security situation in eastern Ukraine remained bad, Turchynov accused Russia of "fomenting the unrest in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions with propaganda".

"Aggression towards our two eastern regions continues. Residents of these areas are under the influence of Russian propaganda," Turchynov was quoted as saying.

Claiming that pro-Russian activists are using Ukrainians from the embattled regions as a "human shield", Turchynov said that the government launched its military operation against the rebels to "avoid civilian casualties".

Turchynov pledged to intensify efforts to find means to de-escalate the situation ahead of the presidential election and voiced his hope that tensions would ease after the voting.

For his part, Feltman said the UN supported the government in Kiev and stood ready to assist with a resolution of the tense situation in the East European country. 

In a related development, Ukraine has received an initial $3.19 billion of its $17-billion bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the country`s central bank said Wednesday.

According to National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) head Stepan Kubiv, about $1 billion from the first tranche would be placed in the NBU`s account to boost its weak foreign exchange reserves.

The rest would go to the state budget to stabilize the macroeconomic and the financial situation in the East European country, Kubiv said.

On April 30, the IMF approved a two-year, $17-billion loan package to Ukraine to keep the country`s ailing economy afloat amid the recent economic and political turbulence.

The Ukrainian economy is facing bankruptcy due to a high budget deficit, huge state debt and low foreign exchange reserves, which dropped in March to $15.086 billion, the lowest on record.
The former Soviet state, which has been plunged into chaos since November 2013 following a government backtrack on European integration, needs the IMF loan to make its debt payments, which stand at $10.8 billion this year.
To obtain the bailout, Ukraine agreed to implement reforms in the energy and financial sectors, strengthen its fiscal policy and improve its business climate.

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