Russia has returned some of the troops gathered around Ukraine to their garrisons, the Defence Ministry said on Tuesday, in a sign that it could be stepping back an invasion.
There were no details how many soldiers on were being loaded onto trains and trucks and sent back to base – which are still close to the border withy Ukraine. Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said that some military exercises that have raised fears of an attack against Ukraine – including in Belarus and in the Black Sea – were continuing.
“Units of the southern and western military districts, having completed their tasks, have already begun loading onto rail and road transport and will begin moving to their military garrisons today,” he said.
“A number of combat training events, including exercises, have been carried out according to plan,” Konashenkov said. “As the combat training events are completed, the troops, as always, will march in a combined way to their permanent deployment points.”
Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu in a stage-managed meeting with Russia President Vladimir Putin on Monday, passed off the massive troop buildup around Ukraine as part of “large-scale drills”.
US officials have estimated that Russia has amassed more than 130,000 troops around Ukraine, and have added to that number in recent days. NATO officials say that about 30,000 Russian troops have been deployed to Belarus, including near Ukraine’s northern border, for exercises that are scheduled to end on Sunday.