Russia says it has returned some troops to bases near Ukraine

A tank of the Russian Armed Forces walks during military exercises in the Leningrad region, Russia, in this photo posted on February 14, 2022. Russian Ministry of Defense / Posted via Reuters

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MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Russian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that some forces in Russia’s military districts bordering Ukraine have returned to their bases after completing exercises, in a move that could ease tensions between Moscow and the West.

A ministry spokesman said in a video posted online that while large-scale exercises continued across the country, some units in the southern and western military regions had completed their exercises and had begun returning to the base.

Video footage released by the Ministry of Defense showed some tanks and other armored vehicles being loaded onto flat rail cars.

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Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba was quoted by the Ukrainian Interfax news agency as saying that Kiev “will believe in de-escalation” only after it sees Russia’s withdrawal.

“We constantly hear different statements from the Russian Federation, so we have a rule … We believe what we see. If we see the withdrawal, we will believe in de-escalation,” the report quoted Kuleba as saying.

Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s border, raising fears of an invasion, especially since Moscow’s February 10-20 joint maneuvers with Belarus mean Ukraine is almost besieged by the Russian army.

Russian markets reacted positively to the news, and the ruble, which has been pressured by fears of new Western sanctions in the event of war, rose 1.5% shortly after the Defense Ministry’s announcement.

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Although Moscow has denied planning to attack Ukraine, it has demanded legally binding guarantees from the United States and NATO not to allow Kiev to join the military bloc. Washington and Brussels have so far refused to make such pledges.

German Chancellor Olaf Schulz is expected in Moscow later on Tuesday to meet President Vladimir Putin on a high-stakes mission to avert war. Read more

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Prepared by Anton Kolodiazny. Alexander Vasovich in Kiev Editing by Andrew Cawthorne, Raju Gopalakrishnan and William Maclean

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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