Russia says it is returning more troops to bases
Russia’s defense ministry on Wednesday said that some troops would be making their way back to their bases and released footage that it claims shows artillery units and tanks departing Crimea amid skepticism from the West that Moscow is pulling forces back from Ukraine’s border.
“Combat equipment and military personnel will be delivered by military trains to the units’ permanent deployment points,” Russia’s defense ministry said, Reuters reported. “Upon arrival, the equipment will be serviced and prepared for carrying out the next phase of combat training.”
The footage and statement from Moscow followed an announcement that it made on Tuesday in which it said that troops near the Ukrainian border were being pulled back.
But NATO and the West are skeptical that Russia is being honest about its drawback. The head of NATO said on Wednesday that the alliance did not see evidence of a troop withdrawal.
“We have heard signs from Moscow about readiness to continue diplomatic efforts, but so far we have not seen any de-escalation on the ground. On the contrary, it appears that Russia continues the military buildup,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, according to CNN. “We will continue to convey a very clear message to Russia that we are ready to sit down and discuss with them, but at the same time we are prepared for the worst.”
President Biden on Tuesday had echoed a similar note, saying that 150,000 Russian troops had been amassed near the Ukrainian border and that officials had “not yet verified” Russia’s claims that it had pulled back troops.
“Indeed, our analysts indicate they remain very much in a threatening position. And the fact remains right now Russia has 150,000 troops encircling Ukraine. … An invasion remains distinctly possible,” Biden said. “That’s why I’ve asked several times that all Americans in Ukraine leave now, before it is too late to leave safely.”
Stoltenberg noted that if Russia did start to pull back troops, the move would be welcomed, but he said that was not the case at present.
“If they really start to withdraw forces, that’s something we will welcome but that remains to be seen,” the NATO chief said, according to The Associated Press.