Putin says Ukraine crisis used by West to 'revive' NATOPresident Poroshenko pledges to give east more autonomy; Crimea asks for same independence as Scotland
President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday accused Western countries of creating the Ukrainian crisis and using it to revive NATO.
"The crisis in Ukraine, which was basically provoked and created by some of our Western partners, is now being used to revive this military bloc (NATO)," Putin said at a government meeting, quoted by the state RIA Novosti news agency.
Earlier in the day, President Petro Poroshenko pledged to give separatist regions in eastern Ukraine more autonomy but said he would not allow the country to be ripped apart.
The pro-Western leader also announced that Russia had withdrawn most of the troops it allegedly sent across the border to back pro-Kremlin rebels, a move that could further ease tensions after the signing of a ceasefire deal last week.
His declaration came just as European Union envoys were gathering in Brussels to discuss a new wave of sanctions against Moscow over its role in the conflict in the former Soviet state.
Poroshenko said the ceasefire -- the first backed by both Kiev and Moscow since pro-Russian rebels launched an uprising against Kiev's rule in April -- had dramatically improved the security situation in the war-ravaged region.
"According to the latest information I received from our intelligence headquarters, 70 percent of Russia's forces have been removed," the presidency website quoted Poroshenko as telling his most powerful ministers.
Poroshenko said he intended to submit a bill to parliament next week granting parts of the east temporary self-rule but that it did not mean they were slipping out from under Kiev's control.
"Ukraine will not make any concessions on issues of its territorial integrity," he said.
"There is and can be no talk of federalization or some estrangement (by the rebel-held regions)."
Putin had long sought to turn Ukraine into a loose federation in which the eastern industrial rustbelt had the right to establish its own trade and diplomatic relations with Moscow.
And one rebel leader immediately vowed to seek outright independence in what promises to be arduous peace talks aimed at putting a permanent end to the five-month conflict that has killed more than 2,700 people and frayed East-West ties.
"We are not considering remaining part of Ukraine," Donetsk "deputy prime minister" Andrei Purgin told AFP.
If Scotland independence recognized, Crimea wants the sameAlso on Wednesday, Crimea's Kremlin-loyal leader said that if the world recognizes an independent Scotland, then it should also offer similar recognition to the Black Sea peninsula which has joined Russia.
Acting regional head Sergei Aksyonov said that the West would have "no other option" but to back Crimea's move to break away from Ukraine, if it also accepts a Scottish vote to split from the United Kingdom.
The Scottish referendum on whether to break from its 300-year-old union is being held on September 18, with polls showing both sides in a dead heat.
Crimea split from Ukraine and joined Russia after a disputed referendum in March.
"If in any country the majority of the population (of a region) take a decision about their independent statehood then I personally support this," Aksyonov was quoted as saying by Russia's Interfax news agency.
"The people living in a particular place better understand the processes that are happening there and it is their right to take such a decision," he said.
The Kremlin annexed Crimea from Ukraine after deploying troops to take over the region and steer through the referendum, in which a large majority voted to join Russia.
Moscow argues it had acted to defend the rights of the region's Russian-speaking population following the ouster of Ukraine's Kremlin-backed leader Viktor Yanukovych.
But the international community has refused to recognize the annexation of Crimea, with only a handful of Kremlin allies accepting the move.