Russian President Vladimir Putin called for Ukrainian forces to withdraw from southeastern Ukraine on Thursday in a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The purpose of the phone call, according to a spokeswoman for Merkel, was for Germany to ask Putin to help in liberating seven observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe who are being held hostage in eastern Ukraine by pro-Russia separatists. Eight osce observers were taken captive in late April and only one so far has been released. The seven still in captivity include a German interpreter and three German officers.
But Mr. Putin apparently didn’t give Ms. Merkel’s request much heed, and instead emphasized that a withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from the country’s southeast is the key to solving the overall problem. This demand is tantamount to saying, “Stand down and withdraw from your own nation immediately!” Putin has repeatedly referred to this region as “Novorussia” (or “New Russia”), and has claimed that he has the right to intervene there to protect the ethnic Russian residents.
Reports say one third of this area is already under the control of pro-Russian forces, and if Ukraine’s military complies with Putin’s order, the entire region would be essentially under Kremlin control.
Whether the conflict comes to a boil in the days ahead or not, these events are already having a profound impact on Europe. To learn the details and significance of the European response, read “The Crimean Crisis Is Reshaping Europe.”