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Putin Urges Separatists To Let Ukrainian Soldiers Retreat

As NATO calls out Russia for arming separatists in Ukraine, Putin releases a statement asking separatists to let Ukraine's troops retreat.
Posted at 4:58 PM, Aug 29, 2014

On the same day NATO condemned Russia for sending troops and equipment across the Ukrainian border, Russian President Vladimir Putin called for separatist militias to allow Ukrainian soldiers to retreat.

Putin released a statement Friday calling on the separatists to allow surrounded Ukrainian soldiers near the city of Donbass to retreat.

The New York Times reports Ukraine has found itself outgunned by Russia and says Ukrainian soldiers were forced into a "panicky retreat" as a Russian force pushed against its border earlier this week.

Putin's move is a curious one from a man some say is actually supplying those same separatists with weapons.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says Russia continues to supply the separatists with tanks, artillery and rocket launchers. He even accuses Russia itself of firing on Ukrainian troops. 

RASMUSSEN: "We urge Russia to cease its illegal military actions, stop its support to armed separatists, and take immediate and verifiable steps towards de-escalation of this grave crisis."

The BBC reports Putin denies sending troops and weapons.

But NATO points to satellite images and says they show Russian convoys moving through Ukraine.

The Washington Post called Putin's action "a double edged appeal - couched as a humanitarian gesture but apparently aimed at helping the rebels consolidate control."

But, as The Guardian points out, no one seems to be able to figure out what exactly Putin is up to. One day he claims Russia has no control over the separatists, and the next day he makes statements — like this latest one — calling on them for action.

Many of those hoping Putin will back down seem to agree economic sanctions are the best route. But a writer for CNN says all the "'painless' economic measures have already been taken" — meaning additional steps will begin to hurt other European countries and the U.S., too. 

Ukraine seems to be at a loss for what to do as well as it continues to seek help from Western allies. France 24 reports the country will seek to become an official member of NATO at a summit next week.

So far, the U.N. says nearly 2,600 people have died in this conflict since it began in April.

This video includes images from Getty Images.