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Russian troops are streaming out of Ukraine

Petro Poroshenko has said that there are now “good prospects for the peace initiative”.

Image: AP Photo/Sergei Grits

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT PETRO Poroshenko has said that most Russian troops have been withdrawn from the country, in a move he said boosted the prospects for peace.

“According to the latest information I received from our intelligence headquarters, 70% of Russia’s forces have been removed,” he told a cabinet meeting, according to a statement on the presidency website.

“This gives us hope that there are good prospects for the peace initiative,” he said, referring to a ceasefire deal backed by Kiev and Moscow that took effect on Friday aimed at ending five months of fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists.

NATO had said last month that Russia had funnelled in at least 1,000 elite troops and heavy weaponry to support pro-Kremlin rebels fighting in eastern Ukraine, dramatically raising the stakes in the conflict.

But the truce deal appears to be holding despite both sides trading accusations of some violations, and Poroshenko has spoken with President Vladimir Putin on several occasions since it was signed.

Further on Russia are likely, and hinge on the success of a ceasefire.

Germany Budget German Chancellor Angela Merkel Source: AP Photo/Michael Sohn

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for the European Union to move quickly on this, saying they could always be lifted if a Ukraine ceasefire holds.

Merkel told parliament that the 28-country bloc needed to bring pressure to bear against Moscow now to foster an end to fighting in eastern Ukraine.

She said a lingering “lack of clarity” about respect for the terms of the ceasefire meant “that we are pushing for these sanctions to be published now” so they can come into force.

She said that if the guns fall silent in eastern Ukraine “then Germany will be the first to call for the sanctions to be lifted”.

“Sanctions are only imposed when they are unavoidable,” she added.

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Ukraine Pro-Russian rebels drive an armored truck in Donetsk. Source: AP Photo/Sergei Grits

After agreeing a new sanctions package against Russia on Monday, EU nations were to hold another round of talks on Wednesday about when to implement them amid discord as to what extent they should be linked to a Ukraine truce.

Meanwhile in Crimea, a pro-Ukraine blogger has said she had fled the Moscow-annexed peninsula after armed police raided her home, in the latest case to prompt questions over Russia’s treatment of journalists.

Activist Elizaveta Bogutska told AFP she had taken the “temporary decision” to quit the Black Sea region for mainland Ukraine after law enforcement agents confiscated her computers following a search on Monday.

“I need to look around and then my family will decide what to do next,” she told AFP.

I decided it is better to speak in freedom than be silent in prison.

© AFP 2014

Read: Flight MH17 broke up in the air after being pierced by ‘high-speed objects’ >

More: Fears over Ukraine truce as woman killed in heavy fighting overnight >

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