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Russia says it’s begun partial troop pullback from Ukraine border


Members of the Ukrainian Border Guard patrol the Ukrainian border fence at the Three Sisters border crossing between, Ukraine, Russia and Belarus on February 14, 2022 in Senkivka, Ukraine.

Chris McGrath | Getty Images

Moscow is starting to return some troops at the Ukrainian border to their bases, the Russian government announced Tuesday — but Ukraine’s president and Western officials have urged caution over taking Russia’s claims at face value.

In a statement early on Tuesday, Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the Russian Ministry of Defense, said troops that had recently been posted to Russia’s southern and western military districts — which share a border with Ukraine — had completed their military drills and “have already begun loading onto rail and road transport and will begin moving to their military garrisons today.”

Konashenkov also announced that Russian troops currently engaged in military drills in neighboring Belarus, which shares a border with Ukraine to the latter’s north, would return to their permanent bases when the exercises ended on Feb. 20.

However, in a response to Russia later on Tuesday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said: “We in Ukraine have a rule: we don’t believe what we hear, we believe what we see. If a real withdrawal follows these statements, we will believe in the beginning of a real de-escalation.”

Thousands of Russian troops began engaging in military drills last week in a move that was widely seen as a display of strength by Moscow. The drills came as more than 100,000 soldiers, tanks, missiles and even fresh blood supplies had been moved to Russia’s border with Ukraine.

Moscow has repeatedly insisted it has no plans to invade Ukraine, despite warnings from Western countries in recent days that an invasion is likely to be imminent.

The Kremlin said Tuesday that Russia had always said its troops would return to their bases after participating in military exercises, Reuters reported.

Dubbing U.S. warnings that Moscow would launch an attack on Wednesday “baseless hysteria,” a Kremlin spokesperson said tensions had been exacerbated by a huge buildup of Ukrainian forces and U.S. claims that war was imminent, according to the news agency.

‘No sign of de-escalation’

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg told a press conference on Tuesday that while there was reason for “cautious optimism” over the situation in Ukraine, the military alliance so far had “not seen any sign of de-escalation on the ground from the Russian side.”

“Russia has amassed a fighting force in and around Ukraine unprecedented since the Cold War,” he said. “Everything is in place for a new attack. But Russia still has time to step back from the brink, stop preparing for war and start working for a peaceful solution.”

NATO has not received any response from Russia regarding its request for a meeting to discuss the current situation, Stoltenberg told reporters, adding that any move from Russia into Ukraine would violate international law.

He added that…


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Russia says it’s begun partial troop pullback from Ukraine border