Russian President Vladimir Putin is raising doubts about the legitimacy of Ukraine’s presidential election but said Russia is moving its troops away from the border to help create favorable conditions for Sunday's vote.
Putin said in Shanghai Wednesday that it will be difficult to build relations with people who come to power during what he called the "continuing punitive operation" in eastern Ukraine.
He was referring to Ukrainian military action against pro-Russian separatists and the arrests of two pro-Kremlin Russian journalists.
Ukrainian authorities said the reporters had portable anti-aircraft missiles in their cars. Putin called that accusation "absolute rubbish."
During a visit to Mexico Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry took note of the announced troop pullback and said he hopes the situation is at a "good moment" where the Ukrainian people can determine their own future.
Ukrainian businessman, politician and presidential candidate Petro Poroshenko (right) meets supporters during his election campaign, in Odessa, May 21, 2014.
Former Ukrainian prime minister and current presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko (right) meets supporters during her election campaign, Konotop, May 21, 2014.
Ukrainian businessman, politician and presidential candidate Petro Poroshenko (left) meets supporters during his election campaign, in Odessa, May 21, 2014.
Former Ukrainian prime minister and current presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko (left) visits a hospital during her election campaign, in Sumy, May 21, 2014.
Local residents walk with their young children in a park, in Donetsk, May 21, 2014.
Workers stand near pipes at a gas compressor station near Uzhhorod. Russia has said state-controlled exporter Gazprom will not supply Ukraine with gas in June if Kyiv fails to pay in advance, May 21, 2014.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Wednesday that he has not seen any visible evidence of a Russian troop withdrawal.
"And I don't personally think that Russia signing a deal with China for gas that they've been working on for 10 years has any impact on what is about to happen in Ukraine, which the people hopefully are going to have a chance to have an election. And we welcome President Putin's statement two days ago that he has instructed the troops that have been bivouacked along the border of Ukraine to move back to their home bases," said Rasmussen.
"Hopefully we are in fact in a good moment, not a a moment of one party outwitting another, but at a constructive moment where there's the possibility of the people of Ukraine being able to determine their own future, and all of us trying to find a way to further deescalate the crisis. That's our goal and that's what we're focused on," he said.
Some reporting by Reuters, AP