Ukraine crisis: Country welcomes Vladimir Putin’s decision to step back from military invasion

The Russian President has asked Parliament to revoke resolution sanctioning the use of force in Ukraine

President Vladimir Putin has asked Russia’s upper house to revoke the right it granted him to invade Ukraine in defence of Russian-speakers there.

Mr Putin’s abandoning of the right to invade might suggest a change in approach and will be welcomed by the West as a sign Moscow could be ready to help engineer a settlement in Ukraine’s largely Russian-speaking east, where a pro-Russian uprising against Kiev began in April.

Mr Putin’s spokesman said his move was aimed at assisting the fledgling peace talks to end the conflict.

The Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called it a “first practical step”, following Mr Putin’s statement of support last weekend for Mr Poroshenko’s peace plan for eastern Ukraine.

In the 1 March resolution, the Federation Council had granted Mr Putin the right to “use the Russian Federation’s armed forces on the territory of Ukraine until the social and political situation in that country normalises”.

That resolution, together with Russia’s annexation of Crimea, helped to send East-West relations to their lowest point since the Cold War and led the US and Europe to impose sanctions on Moscow. Two days ago European Union foreign ministers warned of further sanctions if Russia did not do more to support a peace process in eastern Ukraine, and they also asked for the revocation of the 1 March resolution.

Since then, rebels in eastern Ukraine have agreed to a temporary ceasefire to give time for peace talks in a forum where Russia is represented alongside the Kiev government and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. However, Kiev said a Ukrainian helicopter was shot down by rebel fire near Slovyansk today, with nine feared dead.

It came as Russian shares rose strongly, with the dollar-denominated RTS index rising almost 1 per cent immediately after the news, hitting levels not seen since mid-January. The rouble was also higher.

“The President has filed a proposal to the Federation Council on cancelling ... the resolution on the use of Russia’s armed forces on the territory of Ukraine,” the Kremlin said on its website.

Valentina Matviyenko, the current chair of the Federation Council, said the chamber would discuss Mr Putin’s request today. The deputy head of the chamber’s international affairs committee, Andrei Klimov, said he expected the resolution to pass.