Vladimir Putin made two moves today seen as progress in helping cool tensions in Ukraine: He announced that Russia has pulled back its troops from the border, and he called on pro-Russian separatists to call off a referendum on autonomy scheduled for Sunday, reports the Wall Street Journal. "We're always being told that our forces on the Ukrainian border are a concern," said Putin after meeting with Swiss President Didier Burkhalter, who is also chief of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. "We have withdrawn them. Today they are not on the Ukrainian border, they are in places where they conduct their regular tasks on training grounds."
It's still not clear exactly where the troops are, but the remarks pleased Russian markets because they seemed to reduce the risk of new sanctions, reports Reuters. The news agency also talks to a separatist leader in Donetsk, Ukraine, who says his followers will consider Putin's request to call off the referendum. "We have the utmost respect for President Putin. If he considers that necessary, we will of course discuss it." (Read more Russia stories.)