Russia’s defence ministry has announced it is to withdraw some of its troops from the border
After a build-up raised fears of an invasion, Russia says it is withdrawing some of its troops from near Ukraine. Large-scale drills continued, but some units returned to their bases, according to the defence ministry. There has been no independent confirmation of the withdrawal, and the announcement has been met with caution by international powers. Over 100,000 Russian troops have gathered on the Ukrainian border. Russia has consistently denied any plans for an attack.
Russia has strong cultural and historical ties to Ukraine, and it has been seeking assurances that it will not join the Nato military alliance, which the alliance has refused to provide.
Last November, troops began to gather in large numbers, bringing with them increasingly dire warnings about Russia’s intentions. In recent days, the United States has issued an invasion warning and relocated its embassy from Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. The Russian announcement gave cause for “cautious optimism,” according to Nato, but no evidence of de-escalation had been seen on the ground.
Russia’s defense ministry said in a statement that it was withdrawing some troops from military districts along Ukraine’s border. “A number of combat training exercises, including drills, were carried out as planned,” said Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the defence ministry. Some drills are still going on, such as a large joint Russia-Belarus drill that is set to end on February 20.
According to a British government source, the scale of the withdrawal would have to make a significant difference in the ability to invade to be meaningful.
However, both Ukraine and Russia were able to claim victory in the standoff as a result of the announcement. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dymytro Kuleba said he would believe the withdrawal when he sees it but “we have managed together with our partners to deter Russia from any further escalation”.
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