Russia announced on Tuesday it is pulling back some of its troops from near Ukraine after a build-up raised fears of an invasion.
The Russian defense ministry said that large-scale drills continued but that some units were returning to their bases. It has also published official footage that it says shows a number of its tanks and armored vehicles leaving the area near the Ukrainian border.
“Southern military district units have accomplished their assignments during a scheduled tactical exercise at combined-arms ranges on the Crimean Peninsula and are preparing to go back to base,” district spokesman Vadim Astafyev said.
“Tactical battalion groups have marched to train stations, where the loading of hardware on trains is being organized. Heavy tracked armored vehicles, such as tanks, infantry combat vehicles and self-propelled artillery systems, are being fastened onto flatcars.
“The trains will bring the military vehicles and their drivers to bases, including those in the republics of Dagestan and North Ossetia.”
Ukraine waits for proof of Russia’s pull-out
Ukraine warned to wait to see proof of the pull-out, saying “when we see the withdrawal, then we’ll believe the de-escalation.”
Russia must pull back all of its remaining forces from the countries’ shared frontier, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says.
“We have a rule: don’t believe what you hear, believe what you see,” he tells journalists following reports some Russian troops were returning to base. “When we see a withdrawal, we will believe in a de-escalation.”
He adds that the diplomatic route Ukraine was pursuing with its allies is working at preventing further escalation.
More than 100,000 Russian troops have massed at Ukraine’s border. Russia has always denied it is planning an attack.
The build-up has brought increasingly grave warnings, with the US saying an invasion could come at any time.
Hope for diplomacy to defuse Russia Ukraine tension
The US continues to seek a diplomatic solution to defuse the crisis along Ukraine’s borders, the White House said Monday, but called the continued buildup of Russian troops along Ukraine’s border a hindrance to de-escalation.
“We are actively working to reach a diplomatic solution to deescalate the crisis,” deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, responding to a question about Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s comments that the window for diplomacy hasn’t closed.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin is “willing to negotiate,” adding the Ukraine crisis was only one part of Russia’s larger security concerns.
“First of all, President Putin has always been demanding negotiations and diplomacy,” Peskov told CNN’s Frederik Pleitgen late Monday.
“And actually, he initiated the issue of guarantees of security for the Russian Federation. And Ukraine is just a part of the problem, it’s a part of the bigger problem of security guarantees for Russia and of course President Putin is willing to negotiate,” he said.”