Boys watch as mourners attend the funeral of Ira Boevets, who was killed in clashes between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists on Monday, near the town of Slaviansk, in eastern Ukraine May 7, 2014. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
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Russian President Vladimir Putin called on pro-Moscow separatists in Ukraine to postpone a vote on secession just five days before it was to be held, potentially pulling Ukraine back from the brink of dismemberment.It was the first sign the Kremlin leader has given that he would not endorse a referendum planned for Sunday by pro-Russian rebels seeking independence for two provinces with 6.5 million people and around a third of Ukraine's industrial output. In what suggested a breakthrough in the worst crisis between East and West since the Cold War, Putin also said he was pulling Russian troops back from the Ukrainian border. However, a senior NATO official said the Western alliance had not seen any signs of a Russian pull-back from the frontier, where Moscow has massed tens of thousands of troops, proclaiming the right to invade Ukraine to protect Russian speakers.
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