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Past presidents urge Russia to withdraw troops from Ukraine border

Published: 3:22AM Saturday April 26, 2014 Source: AP

Masked pro-Russian gunmen guard an entrance in Ukraine. (Source: AP)
Masked pro-Russian gunmen guard an entrance in Ukraine. - Source: AP

Leaders and ministers from five ex-Soviet republics have called on Russia to withdraw its troops from border areas near Ukraine, and are backing a free and fair Ukrainian presidential election on 25 May.

The announcement came during a meeting in Prague of the European Union's Eastern Partnership, made up of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

Czech President Milos Zeman, who hosted the meeting in Prague, said if Russia withdraws its troops from border areas, it would be a peaceful gesture that could help calm the crisis.

Just days ago, Russia launched military exercises near its border with Ukraine in a response to a Ukrainian operation to force pro-Russia insurgents out of occupied buildings in eastern cities.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia expressed hope that Russia will still abide by its commitments made in Geneva last week.

Russia and Ukraine reached an agreement in the Swiss city to de-escalate the crisis, calling on all parties in Ukraine to lay down arms and vacate public buildings.