Russian President Vladimir Putin may have changed his tone by announcing a withdrawal of Russian troops from the border with Ukraine, but it may be more rhetoric than concrete action, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine told CNBC.
Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt said Thursday that the U.S. government has seen no action to substantiate Putin's claims.
The Russian president on Wednesday called for a delay in Sunday's referendum vote in largely Russian eastern Ukraine to determine the region's status, and said that Ukraine's May 25 presidential elections are a step in the right direction and that he had pulled troops back from the Ukrainian border.
Pyatt confirmed that NATO, the Pentagon and the White House dispute Putin's statements that Russian troops had been pulled back from the border.
Pyatt also called the planned referendum in eastern Ukraine "bogus and illegal" under any terms.
If Russian troops continue to stir tension in the region, Pyatt said, the United States and European Union will continue to "raise the cost" for Russia and target sectors of the Russian economy that are most engaged with global markets.
Also Thursday, the United States for the first time sanctioned a Russian bank for its dealings with the Syrian government. The move effectively cut off Moscow-based Tempbank from the U.S. financial system.