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After Putin and Obama had a telephone conversation on Friday, Kerry and FM Lavrov had a four meeting in Paris on Sunday. As far as anything that was publicly disclosed those talks ended inconclusively with no follow up meeting scheduled. Russia is seeking constitutional changes in Ukraine that would provide more autonomy and security for the ethnic Russian Ukrainian citizens in the Eastern areas.

Today in a telephone conversation with Angela Merkel, Putin seems to be making an effort to keep things moving.

Putin Informs Merkel of "Partial Withdrawal" of Troops from Ukrainian Border

Russian President Vladimir Putin has told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that he has ordered the withdrawal of some Russian troops from the border with Ukraine.

A Merkel spokesman said Mr. Putin ordered a "partial withdrawal" of troops from Ukraine's eastern border.

The United States estimates Russia has 40,000 troops along the border, while Kyiv says the number is closer to 100,000.

Russia's Defense Ministry said Monday that a motorized infantry battalion was withdrawing from the region.

The French News Agency Monday quoted a spokesman for the Ukrainian defense ministry's general staff as saying Russian forces have been "gradually withdrawing" from the border region in recent days -- adding that this could be linked either to a "a regular rotation" or to "the Russian-US negotiations."

Troop withdrawals were one of Obama's conditions necessary for progress in negotiations to take place. Kerry's limited statement about his meeting with Lavrov emphasized the need for direct participation by the Ukrainian government in any further negotiations.

Russia's present proposals of some form of constitutional change to be voted on in a general referendum are certainly much more in line with the norms of international law than their unilateral transfer of sovereignty for Crimea. Whether the path is politically feasible in the highly volatile atmosphere of Ukrainian politics is another question.

It does seem plausible to say that the situation is not getting worse and that it might be showing some progress toward improvement,    

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