A few days ahead of an EU summit later this week, Vladimir Putin has made a gesture of goodwill that presumably will keep the Europeans from enacting a further round of sanctions: He asked the Russian parliament to cancel his open mandate to send in troops to Ukraine. The reception was muted but cautiously optimistic. The Financial Times:
“Of course we remain wary because throughout this crisis Putin has acted in ways that have undermined trust,” said a European diplomat in Moscow. “But as the government has sought to provide legalistic justifications for every step they make, we can now be more confident that an invasion is not part of the plan.”Mr Poroshenko greeted Mr Putin’s action cautiously, calling it “the first practical move by the Russian president after officially backing Ukraine’s peace plan”.
Ukraine’s separatists claimed that they were going to abide by Poroshenko’s ceasefire through the end of the week as well, but reports are coming in that the agreement is not holding. Ukrainian media is reporting that a military helicopter was shot down near Slavyansk, with eight dead.Two steps forward, one step back: that has been Putin’s dance in Ukraine for as long as the crisis has been ongoing. It’s a particularly effective strategy against the Europeans, some of whom latch on to any Russian gestures as evidence that nothing more needs to be done.Only time will tell how this last set of moves will play out, but no one should be terribly surprised if Putin turns up the heat again in a few days or weeks. Keeping Ukraine at a controlled simmer is in his best interests.