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Ukraine Announces Easter Pause in Operations

The Ukrainian government has announced a pause in security operations to oust pro-Russian militants from buildings they have seized.

Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia says the government has suspended its efforts for the Easter holiday.

He also said Saturday that the pause would give OSCE monitors more time to organize.

In March, the OSCE launched a special mission to gather information on security and human rights in Ukraine. The group is also working to facilitate dialogue in the country.

A VOA correspondent in Kyiv says Deshchytsia commented after wrapping up a meeting with the OSCE and ambassadors from the EU, Russia and the United states.

Pro-Russian gunmen have seized Ukrainian government buildings in nearly a dozen eastern towns and cities. Ukrainian troops launched operations to retake the buildings.

In another development, Russian President Vladimir Putin said nothing should impede the normalization of relations between Russia and the West.

But he said the normalization of ties does not only depend on Russia. He said it depends on the West. Mr. Putin's comments were released by Russian news agencies from a state television interview to be broadcast Saturday.

In a separate interview, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia had deployed additional security forces to the Ukrainian border in response to the instability in Ukraine. He commented on Rossiya 1 TV.

Russia has previously said its troops were on the border for routine exercises.

U.S. President Barack Obama's administration has warned Russia that it could face additional sanctions if it fails to adhere to a new international deal on Ukraine or moves its forces on the border into eastern Ukraine.

Thursday's agreement, which followed talks between Ukraine, Russia, the United States and the European Union, calls for all government buildings to be evacuated and for the militants to be disarmed.

But it includes few concrete measures for ending the crisis, and many Western leaders are skeptical about Russia holding up its end of the bargain.

Mr. Obama's national security advisor, Susan Rice, told reporters Friday that the U.S. has been clear that it and its European partners "remain ready to impose additional costs on Russia" if it fails to meet its obligations.

She reiterated an earlier statement by State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki that the U.S. believes Russia has a responsibility to use its influence to restrain and withdraw the pro-Russian militants occupying government buildings in eastern Ukraine.

But pro-Russian militant leader Denis Pushilin in eastern Ukraine said earlier that his men are not bound by the deal and will only stand down after the Ukrainian government resigns.

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