Putin Urges Postponing Eastern Ukraine Referendum
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin says a planned May 11 referendum on autonomy in southeast Ukraine should be postponed.
In a Wednesday meeting with Swiss president Didier Burkhalter, Putin also called on Ukraine's military to halt all operations against pro-Russia activists who have seized government buildings and police stations across at least a dozen towns in eastern Ukraine.
Putin also said the upcoming presidential elections in Ukraine — slated for May 25 — are a move "in the right direction," but repeated that constitutional reforms would have to precede any nationwide vote in Ukraine.
A U.S. official discussing expanded U.S. and European sanctions against Russia acknowledges that the punishment is taking a toll in the West as well.
Treasury Undersecretary David Cohen is in Europe this week to negotiate a possible third round of sanctions for Russia's incursion into Ukraine. Cohen acknowledged Wednesday that sanctions are also inflicting pain on companies in the United States and Europe.
French bank Societe Generale said Wednesday that the declining ruble and economic uncertainty forced the write-down of 525 million euros ($731 million) on its Russian activities, which include a stake in Rosbank.
Cohen said the U.S. was aware Europe is more exposed to Russia's economic slowdown, which predates the sanctions, but said the EU and U.S. were committed to ensuring Ukraine's May 25 presidential elections take place.
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