BBCUkraine crisis: Putin 'orders partial withdrawal'
31 March 2014 Last updated at 13:26 ETRussian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a "partial withdrawal" of troops from the border with Ukraine, the German government has said.
Mr Putin informed Chancellor Angela Merkel of the move in a telephone conversation, according to her office.
Thousands of Russian soldiers are still said to be deployed along the border.
Earlier, Ukraine condemned a visit to Crimea by Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and a delegation of government ministers.
A foreign ministry spokesman in Kiev said the highest-level trip to the Black Sea peninsula by officials from Moscow since its annexation by Russia was a "crude violation" of international rules.
A note protesting against the presence of an official in "the territory of another state without preliminary agreement" had been sent, he added.
Crimeans voted to leave Ukraine for Russia on 16 March, in a referendum condemned as illegal by the UN General Assembly.
Mr Medvedev announced that he would make Crimea a special economic zone, with tax breaks and reduced bureaucracy to attract investors.
He also vowed to quickly boost salaries and pensions, and to improve education, healthcare and local infrastructure.
Tensions between Russia and the West rose after the overthrow of pro-Kremlin Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in February, following months of street protests.
Russia's subsequent decision to annex Crimea triggered a crisis in relations.
The United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions on members of President Vladimir Putin's inner circle and other officials. Russia has retaliated with its own sanctions on US lawmakers.
US Secretary of State John Kerry told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, on Sunday that resolving the crisis depended on Russia pulling back its troops from along Ukraine's border.
On Monday afternoon, Mr Putin informed Germany's chancellor about "the partial withdrawal of Russian troops he ordered from the eastern border of Ukraine", Mrs Merkel's office said in a statement.
"On top of that, the two discussed further possible steps to stabilise the situation in Ukraine and Trans-Dniester," it added, referring to a pro-Russian region bordering western Ukraine that proclaimed independence from Moldova in 1990.
A Kremlin statement did not mention a partial withdrawal, but said the two leaders had discussed "opportunities for international support for the restoration of stability" in Ukraine.
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