The request was made before Putin’s visit to Vienna today to help stabilize the situation in Ukraine after peace talks began, Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, said by telephone. The Federation Council authorized Putin on March 1 to use the military in Ukraine, before the annexation of Crimea.
Putin’s request is the strongest indication yet that tensions in east Ukraine are abating after the worst diplomatic crisis between Russia, U.S. and its European allies since the end of the Cold War. Pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine last night called a cease-fire in fighting against government forces, matching a truce announced four days ago by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
“Putin is trying to achieve a breakthrough and start a real negotiating process,” said Sergei Markov, a Moscow-based political analyst who’s a consultant to Putin’s staff. “Now we have to see how the government in Kiev will respond. Are they willing to hold serious talks?”
Rebel leaders agreed yesterday to join a one-week cease-fire announced by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on June 20. That prompted a rally in Russian and Ukrainian assets.
The Micex Index (INDEXCF) jumped to an intraday high, rising 1.3 percent to 1,504.94 by 2:38 p.m. in Moscow, while the ruble extended gains, adding 0.7 percent to 39.3922 versus the basket.
The decision was at least partly driven by a desire to drive off potential sanctions by the U.S. and European Union, Masha Lipman, an analyst at the Moscow Carnegie Center, said by telephone. Even so, Putin will maintain his efforts to keep Ukraine within Russia’s sphere of influence, she said.
“It’s not clear whether Putin ever meant to invade, but the West isn’t capable of changing Putin’s priorities,” Lipman said. “He’s not interested in Ukraine moving toward normalcy, he’s interested in keeping it weak.”