Russian President Vladimir Putin called for pro-Russia activists in East Ukraine to postpone a vote scheduled for Sunday regarding secession from Ukraine, a move the US cautiously welcomed. Putin also called for postponing the May 25th presidential vote which the US and EU are pushing hard in hopes of legitimizing the violent overthrow of President Yanukovych, a proposal the US outright rejected.

The announcement came at a press conference where Putin also said he was pulling Russian troops back from the Ukrainian border. He claimed dialogue between the warring factions in Ukraine should be the goal saying “I simply believe that if we want to find a long-term solution to the crisis in Ukraine, open, honest and equal dialogue is the only possible option.”

Despite President Putin’s statement all indications are that the referendum are going forward. The separatists in East Ukraine seem completely unconvinced that dialogue has any value at this point.

A council of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk voted unanimously on Thursday to hold a referendum on secession from Ukraine on Sunday despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s call for a postponement.

“This is a people’s referendum. There already is a civil war underway. The referendum will be the only way stop it,” Denis Pushilin, the self-styled head of the republic told journalists in a Donetsk government building seized by his pro-Russian militia in early April and turned into its make-shift headquarters.

All of which raises the question of whether Putin made the statements to avoid another round of sanctions or just distance himself from any responsibility from the larger conflict that is coming. Putin can say he gave peace one more chance before intervening.

In either case, the odds that the warring factions in Ukraine come to some happy resolution are not favorable. Beyond the cycle of violence that has already started are the genuine cultural and political disagreements between the forces. Even if people wanted to stop the conflict it is not clear it can be stopped.