World Russia begins drawdown of troops from Ukraine borders
Is Russia moving towards war with Ukraine?
Russia is amassing troops and weaponry near Ukraine’s eastern border, a move some say is a strategic show of force.Asked why it amassed 40,000 troops, armoured personnel carriers, tanks and artillery near Ukraine’s eastern border and another 40,000 servicemen in annexed Crimea in recent weeks, Moscow “refused to provide substantial information”, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday.
Russia on Friday began withdrawing troops that had been running drills near the borders of Ukraine, the defence ministry said, following weeks of heightened tensions between Moscow and the West over the buildup.
"Military units and formations are currently marching to railway loading stations and airfields, and loading onto landing ships, railway platforms and military transport aircraft," the ministry said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.
Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu announced on Thursday that tens of thousands of troops who had deployed to southern and western Russia for exercises over the past few weeks would be returning to their bases.
Russia Labels U.S. an 'Adversary' As Tensions Rise Over Troop Buildup by Ukraine
Sergei Ryabkov's comments come after Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Moscow about acting "recklessly."In a departure from the Kremlin's usual description of the U.S. as a "partner"—however fraught that partnership might be—Sergei Ryabkov's comments follow a warning by Secretary of State Antony Blinken that "there would be consequences" if Moscow "acts recklessly" in Ukraine.
The buildup, which came amid an increase in fighting between Kiev's forces and pro-Russia eastern separatists since the start of the year, raised deep concerns in Ukraine and drew warnings from its Western allies.
Both NATO and Kiev welcomed Russia's announcement of the drawdown, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky saying "the reduction of troops on our border proportionally reduces tension".
A NATO official said any "de-escalation by Russia" would be important, adding: "NATO remains vigilant and we will continue to closely monitor Russia's unjustified military buildup in and around Ukraine."
The United States had said it was "looking for action" on the troop withdrawal.
- Uptick in separatist conflict -
Russia seeking to ‘provoke’ Ukraine conflict, Germany says
Defence minister’s accusation comes as Western powers pile pressure on Russia over its military buildup at the border.Moscow has in recent weeks amassed tens of thousands of troops as well as tanks and artillery near Ukraine’s eastern border. It also mobilised troops in the annexed Black Sea region of Crimea, which it seized in March 2014.
Hours after the end to the exercises was announced, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Zelensky was welcome in Moscow anytime to discuss bilateral relations, but that the Ukrainian leader should discuss the surge in fighting with separatist leaders.
Russia said it had sent tens of thousands of troops to the country's south and west and to Crimea, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014, for a series of military drills.
It also ramped up military exercises in the Black Sea earlier this week, with more than 20 Russian warships participating in joint drills with air force fighter jets.
Western officials said around 100,000 Russian soldiers had been deployed for the exercises, which Shoigu had said were in response to "threatening" NATO actions.
Kiev has been battling pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions since 2014, following Moscow's annexation of the Crimean peninsula, with the conflict claiming 13,000 lives.
Fighting subsided as a new ceasefire agreement took hold last July, but clashes, mainly involving artillery, mortar and sniper fire, picked up again since the start of 2021, with both sides blaming each other.
At least 31 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed since the start of the year, compared to 50 in all of 2020, while the separatists say 22 of their fighters have died.
Russia to pull back troops from Ukraine border .
Russia’s announcement comes after fears in Ukraine and the West that Moscow had been attempting to provoke hostilities. “I believe the objectives of the snap inspection have been fully achieved. The troops have demonstrated their ability to provide a credible defence for the country,” RIA quoted Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu as saying. “In this regard, I have decided to complete the inspections in the southern and western military districts,” he added.