Putin Says Russia Forces Withdrew from Ukraine Border
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said Wednesday that Russian troops had pulled back from the Ukraine border, and he urged separatists in eastern Ukraine to postpone a referendum planned for Sunday.
“We were told constantly about concerns over our troops near the Ukrainian border,” Mr. Putin said after meeting with Didier Burkhalter, the president of Switzerland and current head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. “We have pulled them back. Today they are not at the Ukrainian border but in places of regular exercises, at training grounds.”
Russia positioned 40,000 troops on the Ukrainian border soon after protesters in Kiev pushed President Viktor F. Yanukovych from power on Feb. 28. Mr. Putin’s willingness to send Russian forces under cover into Crimea and his subsequent annexation of the peninsula raised fears that he might do the same in southeastern Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday signaled support for a European plan to ease tensions in Ukraine, calling on pro-Russian separatists in the southeast of the country to facilitate talks by putting off a planned Sunday referendum on secession.
“Direct dialogue between the Kiev government and the representatives of southeast Ukraine is the crucial element for a resolution,” Mr. Putin told journalists after talks with Swiss President Didier Burkhalter, who is also the chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Nigeria Offers Reward for Info on Abducted Girls
Nigerian police offered a $300,000 reward on Wednesday to anyone who can give credible information leading to the rescue of the nearly 300 schoolgirls abducted by Islamist rebels.
Police listed six phone numbers in their statement and urged Nigerians to “be part of the solution to the present security challenge” and call in with “credible information.”
Last month’s mass kidnapping by the militant group Boko Haram in the remote northeastern village of Chibok triggered an international outcry and protests in Nigeria, piling pressure on the government to rescue the girls.
Hundreds of beleaguered Syrian rebels began withdrawing from the city dubbed “the capital of the revolution” on Wednesday, handing a victory to President Bashar Assad three years into a war that has left well over 100,000 dead and forced millions from their homes.
According to activists, nearly 2,000 rebels and their families would be evacuated from the heart of Homs, where anti-Assad forces holed up under fierce bombardment for more than a year. The mainly Sunni fighters had held out in the Old City of Homs and districts close-by despite being out-gunned and under-supplied.