UK & World News
Ukraine Crisis: Putin Hints At Thaw With West
Russian President Vladimir Putin has held out the prospect of improved relations with the West following a tense Cold War-style stand-off over Ukraine.
But in a sign there would be no weakening of Moscow's stance, Mr Putin said he would award medals to Russian troops who served during the annexation of Crimea.
It was only recently he admitted the country's military had been involved in events on the Black Sea peninsula.
His comments came as the US warned Russia it will face further sanctions if pro-Russia militia in eastern Ukraine do not disarm, and the Kremlin admitted reinforcement troops had been sent to the border.
Up to 40,000 soldiers are now based near the frontier with Ukraine, but Moscow insists it is a precautionary measure.
Speaking in an interview broadcast on Russian state television, Mr Putin hinted at a thaw in relations with Western powers, which have accused the Kremlin of stoking unrest in Ukraine.
He also welcomed the appointment of the new Nato head Jens Stoltenberg
Mr Putin said: "I think there is nothing that would hinder a normalisation and normal cooperation."
But he added: "This does not depend on us. Or rather not only on us. This depends on our partners."
His US counterpart Barack Obama has said further economic and diplomatic action could be taken against Moscow if an international agreement to calm tensions in Ukraine is not implemented.
Russia, Ukraine, the US and the European Union agreed on Thursday to a series of steps to "de-escalate" the crisis in Ukraine.
But many of the groups that took over government buildings in a bid to declare independence in eastern Ukraine have yet to leave, saying they will only do so if Ukraine's government steps down too.
Kiev says it has suspended military operations over the Easter weekend, although it it has shown little sign previously of trying to recapture seized buildings.
US Secretary of State John Kerry told Russian foreign secretary Sergei Lavrov late on Friday that the "the next few days would be a pivotal period".
The EU has also indicated it will meet to discuss further sanctions if Russia does not act to make the militias disarm.
But earlier, the Kremlin had indicated Russia was not going to be bossed around, issuing a veiled threat.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian television: "Our Western colleagues are trying to push responsibility towards our side. But it must be underlined: it is a collective responsibility."
"We have troops in different regions, and there are troops close to the Ukrainian border.
"Some are based there, others have been sent as reinforcements due to the situation in Ukraine," he added.
The White House said it was watching Moscow to see if it adhered to what had been agreed in Geneva.
Pro-Russians occupying public buildings in 10 eastern Ukrainian cities are demanding a referendum on union with their neighbour, similar to the one held in Crimea that ultimately led to its annexation by Moscow.
Sky's Katie Stallard, in Donetsk, said there was no sign of anyone there acting on the deal reached in Geneva.
She added: "None of those at the talks directly represented those on the ground, particularly those occupying the buildings."
Meanwhile, Europe's Baltic states are in talks to set up their own Russian-language television channel in an attempt to counter the deluge of propaganda aimed at their ethnic Russian populations by Moscow-backed media.