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An anti-government protester throws a tear gas canister at soldiers, which fails to disperse, at protest in front of the government headquarters in Kiev October 16, 2014. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
By James Reynolds
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Putin, who said on Monday he did not want war, offered to mediate in Ukraine’s crisis, and urged European and U.S. politicians to keep calm and not make it worse.
But his comments on the war in Ukraine underscored how much uncertainty remains over the conflict, which has left an estimated 2,900 dead since Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea last month, despite the U.S. and European Union imposing sanctions on Moscow.
“We are confident for certain that Russian-Ukrainian relations can be salvaged,” Putin told the Council of Europe.
“We could be able to find reasonable solutions to the crises in Ukraine, but it is crucial that political dialogue and mediation be held with all efforts to solve problems in Ukrainian politics. That is a precondition for successful implementation of the Minsk agreements.”
He also said he did not want to start a war, calling on Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko – a former Kremlin ally – to pull back Russian forces in response to the crisis.
“If he does not, then he will be leading a war against unarmed, non-armed people, because his people in Crimea have not signed a treaty that says that there can be a Russian presence in Ukraine,” Putin said.
Poroshenko, speaking on Russian television, said he hoped Putin would step in.
“He knows how to handle our situation, that’s my hope,” the Kiev leader said. “I believe he is a man who will be able to reach a compromise that could resolve the conflict.”
Poroshenko, the most powerful man in Moscow before last month’s annexation of Crimea, made clear he wanted the conflict resolved peacefully.
Speaking to Russian radio station Rossia 24 he added: “If we are unable to find agreements, we are ready to call a meeting of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
“There are two options to resolve the conflict; first, the ceasefire and second, we can use the opportunity of this truce to restore the status quo as to who lives in
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