Ukraine crisis: Pro-Russians seize back Mariupol city hall

Kiev received the first $3.19bn (2.3bn euros) tranche of an IMF loan. UK Foreign Secretary meets Ukrainian leaders in Kiev. Russian FM ruled out holding another round of international talks unless pro-Russian opposition groups were involved.

Russia’s Putin ‘backs’ 25 May election, troops withdrawn
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin says Ukraine’s presidential election on 25 May is a step “in the right direction”, the BBC reports.
But he said the 25 May vote would decide nothing unless the rights of “all citizens” are protected.
Mr Putin also urged pro-Russian activists in south-eastern Ukraine to call off a series of independence referendums planned for this weekend. It comes amid high tension between Russia and Kiev, and its allies in the West, over the crisis in Ukraine.
“We are calling for southeast Ukraine representatives, supporters of federalization of the country, to postpone the May 11 referendum to create the necessary conditions for dialogue,” Putin said at a press conference with OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Swiss President Didier Burkhalter in Moscow, reports on the other hand.
Vladimir Putin also stressed that Russia has withdrawn its troops from Ukrainian border
“We have been told that our troops on the Ukrainian border are a concern – we have withdrawn them. They are now not on Ukrainian territory, but at locations where they conduct regular drill at ranges,” the Russian President said.

Pro-Russian separatists have seized back the city hall in the southern Ukrainian port of Mariupol, hours after being ousted by security forces, the BBC reports.
Government forces first raised the Ukraine flag on the building but later left – allowing the rebels who captured it last week to be back in control.
Shortly after the Russian and “Donetsk Peoples’ Republic” flags were hoisted over Mariupol’s city hall, the scene of tensions moved to the police station where 16 arrested pro-Russian activists were being held.
Heavily-armed police fired warning shots into the air as an angry crowd of friends and relatives gathered at the police gates concerned that the detainees would be moved to another province, the BBC’s Sarah Rainsford reports from the scene.
Earlier on Wednesday, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said government troops had taken over Mariupol’s city hall following a joint operation by ministry troops and the army.

Top military commander says NATO may need permanent troops in East Europe
Air Force General Philip Breedlove, NATO’s top military commander, said Russia’s actions in Ukraine have created a “new paradigm” in Europe that may require a revaluation of how the military alliance operates on the continent. Options include positioning permanently troops in Eastern Europe, Breedlove said at a press conference in Ottawa.
“We will look at some of those tougher questions about are we positioned correctly in Europe,” Breedlove said. Asked specifically about permanent troops in Eastern Europe, Breedlove said: “I think this is something we have to consider and we will tee this up for discussion through the leaderships of our nations.”
Canada’s military to remain in Eastern Europe all year, could go to Ukraine
Canadian military forces in Eastern Europe are expected to remain in the region until at least the end of the year, and could spend some time in Ukraine, as NATO digs in against Russia, reports.
On Tuesday, Canadian defence chief Gen. Tom Lawson and NATO’s top commander, Gen. Philip Breedlove, provided some answers about what Canada is doing in Europe as the latter wrapped up a two-day trip to Ottawa.
Canada has contributed six F-18 fighter jets and a naval frigate plus about 600 military personnel in recent weeks as NATO has moved to reassure Eastern European allies worried about Russia’s broader intentions.

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