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Ukraine crisis: Putin says referendum on autonomy should be postponed

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PutinThe Kremlin beat a tactical retreat over a regional referendum following days of soaring tension that have left dozens dead and fed fears of a civil war in Ukraine.

Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, said the referendum being staged by pro-Russia separatists in parts of eastern Ukraine on Sunday should be postponed. If the referendum goes ahead, it will provide an argument for the region joining Russia as happened in Crimea in March.

Overt Russian support for the plebiscite could have triggered more substantive EU and US sanctions against Russia. Putin's statement, following talks with the president of Switzerland in Moscow, looked likely to delay the imposition of a harsher round of economic penalties.

While Moscow has also opposed the holding of presidential elections in Ukraine on 25 May – a ballot strongly supported by the west – Putin sounded more conciliatory, saying that the poll could be a step in the right direction.


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