Russia's President Vladimir Putin (back C) and the head of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Swiss President Didier Burkhalter (L), meet in the Kremlin in Moscow, on May 7, 2014. AFP PHOTO / POOL/ SERGEI KARPUKHIN
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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday urged pro-Kremlin separatists in eastern Ukraine to postpone a series of disputed referendums planned for this weekend on declaring greater autonomy or outright independence from Kiev.The Kremlin chief also said Russia had pulled troops back from the Ukraine border and softened his criticism of plans by Ukraine's interim leaders to stage a snap presidential poll on May 25, describing it as a "step in the right direction". Putin told visiting Swiss president and current OSCE chief Didier Burkhalter that he was in favour of postponing the secession referendums planned for Sunday in order to give talks between separatists and Kiev leaders a chance.Putin acknowledged Western concerns and said in his first such public comments that Russia had -- at a point he failed to specify -- already pulled back its troops.
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