THIS is a somewhat intriguing but baffling development.
Staged pretense? (surely it must be)
Firstly, that Putin came out and advised, in public, on camera, for a postponement to the approaching 'independence' votes in two Ukrainian provinces (but why????)
Secondly, that the local separatist leaders on the ground in two Ukrainian provinces have apparently ignored his advice and are going to push ahead anyway (defying Putin????)
A way for Putin to hold his hands up afterwards and say, "Well, I tried to stop it, but these nuisance disobedient pro-Russian militants, they were just determined to go ahead and disobey me and ignore me, so what could I do?"
Or a sign that he's genuinely backtracking on the escalation, and seeking a way out amid talk of further sanctions against him?
And then the same question asked as I was wondering....Ukraine crisis: Pro-Russia rebel vote to go ahead
Pro-Russian activists in eastern Ukraine have decided to go ahead with an independence referendum on Sunday, despite a call from Russian President Vladimir Putin to postpone it.
The move was announced by separatist leaders after consulting supporters.
On Wednesday, Mr Putin called for a postponement to create the conditions necessary for dialogue.
The following three possible reasons suggested in the article:Ukraine crisis: Why did Putin intervene in referendum?
As Eastern Ukraine spiralled into violence in the last few weeks there has been lots of fury from Moscow, but few insights into President Vladimir Putin's strategy.
As it stands....It may be a sign the President Putin thought the fighting in the Donetsk region was heading into a bloody dead-end that might be about spiral out of control.
Or it may be a sign that he feels that the next round of sanctions would hurt Russia too much, and he thinks the annexation of Crimea is sufficient punishment of Kiev and the EU and the US for now.
But it may just be a delaying tactic, a way of seeming to be doing something while knowing that the conflict will continue, further undermining the government in Kiev.
Voters in two regions will go to the ballot box on Sunday.
As goes Crimea, as goes Donetsk and Luhansk.