By Rebecca Shabad - 05/30/14 07:42 AM EDT
Russia has withdrawn the majority of its troops that were stationed along the border with Ukraine, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday.
“We do know that thousands of Russian troops have been pulled back and are moving away, but we also know that there are still thousands of Russian troops still there that have not yet moved,” Hagel told reporters en route to Singapore.
“But they are not where they need to be and won't be until all of their troops that they positioned along that border a couple of months ago are gone,” he added.
Hagel said he hasn’t spoken with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu about the withdrawal.
A senior Defense official traveling with Hagel told The Washington Post that about seven Russian battalions remain on the border with Ukraine. NATO had estimated that about 40,000 soldiers were stationed there over the last several months. A battalion consists of about 1,000 soldiers.
The confirmation of troop movement comes nearly two weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his forces to return to their bases. It marked the third time Putin issued such an order, and the United States had said in the previous instances that there was no indication of movement.
Meanwhile, 14 people died in Eastern Ukraine Thursday after pro-Russian separatists shot down a Ukrainian military helicopter.