KIEV: Ukraine confirms Russian troop withdraw from border ahead of polls

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Ukraine confirmed on Tuesday that Russia had taken out its troops back from the edge for the first time in a move that could ease spiralling tensions five days ahead of a make-or-break presidential poll.

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The state border service’s surprise declaration that none of the estimated 40,000 soldiers were now stationed within 10 kilometres of Ukraine has the capability to deflate the bloody Kremlin-backed insurgency that threatens to tear the ex-Soviet nation apart.

The provisional Western-backed leaders in Kiev won another boost on Tuesday when Ukraine’s richest tycoon Rinat Akhmetov denounced the armed rebels who have run over a dozen cities in his eastern industrial power base as bandits who might create “genocide”.

The tumult that started with the popular overthrow in February of a pro-Russian leader and then saw Kremlin forces retaliate by annexing the Crimean peninsula has plunged East-West relations to post-Cold War lows and stoked fears of full-scale civil conflict.

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