World Russia Will Do What Is 'Necessary' to Secure Borders, Despite Troop Pullback: Defense Minister
Russian troops start pulling back from Ukrainian border
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian troops began pulling back to their permanent bases Friday after a massive buildup that caused Ukrainian and Western concerns. On Thursday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu declared the sweeping maneuvers in Crimea and wide swaths of western Russia over, and ordered the military to pull the troops that took part in them back to their permanent bases by May 1. At the same time, he ordered their heavy weapons kept in western Russia for another massive military exercise called Zapad (West) 2021 later this year.
Russia's defense minister said Tuesday that the troop pullback from the Ukraine border had nothing to do with Western pressure and that Moscow will do whatever is necessary to protect itself.
Westernforces were worried about the buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine and strongly urged the Kremlin to withdraw its forces. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered the drawdown last week and said the Western reaction was inappropriate.
Putin Is Keeping the West Guessing and That’s Just Fine With Him
The Kremlin leader's Ukraine gambit has pushed Joe Biden to focus attention on Russia, officials say.As thousands of Russian troops began withdrawing from the Ukrainian border Friday, easing some of the worst tensions with the U.S. and Europe since the Cold War, there’s quiet satisfaction in the Kremlin that the high-risk gambit paid off.
"Some even warned us that our activities on our own territory will have consequences," Shoigu said. "I would like to emphasize that we don't see such warnings as acceptable and will do everything that is necessary to ensure the security of our borders."
He said the deployment of NATO troops near Russia was a cause of concern for Moscow.
"The U.S. and NATO activities to increase combat readiness and build up their presence have contributed to an increase in military threats," Shoigu said. Moscow was closely monitoring the deployment of U.S. troops and weapons in Europe as part of NATO's Defender Europe 2021 drills, he said.
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said earlier this month before a meeting with Ukraine's foreign minister that the United States "stands firmly behind the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine." He also called Russia's actions regarding Ukraine "provocative."
Russia Shrugs Off Ukraine's Call to Get Back Control of its Border
A push by Ukraine to revise a 2015 peace deal with Russia was rebuffed on Wednesday by Russia's foreign minister, signaling a lack of will to normalize ties with Ukraine.Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on Russia on Tuesday for a modification of the 2015 deal and invited other countries to help resolve stalled peace talks on a political settlement in eastern Ukraine. Conflict broke out between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in Donbas, the center of Ukrainian industry, after Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014.
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below
The Russian Black Sea Fleet said Tuesday that its flagship, the Moskva missile cruiser, has left its port of Sevastopol in Crimea for practice missile launches. The navy said that its assets were monitoring the U.S. Coast Guard vessel Hamilton that sailed into the Black Sea Tuesday.
Last week, Russia closed off wide sectors of the Black Sea near Crimea to foreign warships until November, shrugging off Ukrainian and Western complaints.
The Russian troop buildup came amid a rise in cease-fire violations in eastern Ukraine, stoking fears of large-scale hostilities. The conflict between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine's eastern industrial heartland, called Donbas, erupted shortly after Moscow's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula. More than 14,000 people have been killed in seven years of fighting.
Russian military says its troops back to bases after buildup
MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian military said Thursday that its troops have returned to their permanent bases after concluding massive drills near Ukraine that alarmed Western countries. Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the military's General Staff, said that more than 300,000 troops, nearly one-third of the nation's 1 million member military, took part in the exercise earlier this month. Speaking during a meeting with the top military brass to discuss the drills, he noted that they involved 35,000 combat vehicles, about 900 aircraft and 180 navy ships.
In 2015, France and Germany helped broker a peace deal that was signed in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. The agreement helped end large-scale battles, but skirmishes have continued and a peace settlement has stalled.
The deal obliged Ukraine to grant broad autonomy to the rebel regions and declare an amnesty for the rebels, and stipulated that Ukraine would regain full control of its border with Russia in the rebel-held territories only after they elect local leaders and legislatures. Many in Ukraine saw the deal as a betrayal of national interests and opposed it.
The latest round of the so-called "Normandy Format" talks between the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany in December 2019 brought no progress.
Ukrainian officials have continuously pushed for revising the Minsk agreement and inviting the U.S. and other powers to join the peace talks, ideas Russia has rejected.
On Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reaffirmed a call for modifying the Minsk agreement and inviting other countries to help broker peace talks.
Czech Citizens Protest President Milos Zeman for Pushing Country Into Arms of Russia
Milos Zeman's statements on investigations tying Russian operatives to a 2014 explosion in the Czech Republic have drawn fire.That controversy began after Czechs accused Russian intelligence of being behind a deadly explosion at a munitions depot in 2014. Thursday's protest was called by Million Moments for Democracy, a group that formed after the 2017 general election in the Czech Republic. The group was previously focused on scandals involving Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis.
"I believe that the Minsk agreement should be flexible," Zelenskyy said. "The "Normandy format" could be extended to involve other serious, powerful players on a parallel track," Zelenskyy added, without specifying what other nations could be invited to help broker peace talks.
Russia lags behind others in its COVID-19 vaccination drive
MOSCOW (AP) — While at the Park House shopping mall in northern Moscow, Vladimir Makarov saw it was offering the coronavirus vaccine to customers, so he asked how long it would take. “It turned out it’s simple here — 10 minutes,” he said of his experience last month. But Makarov, like many Muscovites, still decided to put off getting the Sputnik V shot. Russia boasted last year of being first in the world to authorize a coronavirus vaccine, but it now finds itself lagging in getting its population immunized.
Zelenskyy on Tuesday visited Ukrainian troops near Crimea. He welcomed the Russian troop pullback, saying it helped de-escalate tensions. At the same time, he noted that "we don't have a 100 percent guarantee that the Russian troops won't return."
Zelenskyy voiced hope that an agreement could be reached quickly to secure a cease-fire in the east during the celebration of Orthodox Easter this coming Sunday.
A Ukrainian soldier was killed and three others were wounded Tuesday when their vehicle hit a landmine in the conflict area, bringing the number of Ukrainian servicemen killed in the east so far this year to 33.
Milley: ‘Not a foregone conclusion the Taliban automatically win’ .
DON’T COUNT AFGHAN MILITARY OUT: While acknowledging the outcome of the war between the Taliban and the U.S.-backed Afghan government is uncertain, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said the Afghan military should not be counted out. © Provided by Washington Examiner DOD header 2020 “It's not a foregone conclusion, in my professional military estimate, that the Taliban automatically win and Kabul falls or any of those kinds of dire predictions,” Milley said, standing alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at a Pentagon briefing yesterday.