By Uganda Online Media Correspondent
Russia said Tuesday that some forces deployed near Ukraine were beginning to return to their bases, after a buildup of Moscow’s army around Ukrainian borders spurred fears of an invasion.
“Units of the Southern and Western military districts, having completed their tasks, have already begun loading onto rail and road transport and today they will begin moving to their military garrisons,” a Defense Ministry spokesperson said.
The comments carried by Russian news agencies come ahead of a scheduled meeting between German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Russian President Vladimir Putin to defuse tensions over Ukraine.
A buildup of some 100,000 Russian troops around the ex-Soviet country spurred European leaders and Washington to warn of sweeping economic penalties if Russia escalates an ongoing separatist conflict in Ukraine by sending in troops.
Tensions have been exacerbated by Russian military drills, including near Ukraine and in Belarus, where the United States says some 30,000 troops are participating in exercises scheduled to run until Feb. 20.
Meeting with Putin earlier this week, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said some of the Russian war games would soon be drawing to a close.
Ukraine’s defense minister, meanwhile, said Monday he had spoken with his Belarusian counterpart and received assurances there was no threat to Kyiv from Belarusian territory.
However, Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary-General of Ukraine, says there are “no signs of de-escalation on the ground”, despite Russian claims they are withdrawing troops from Belarus and Crimea.
“We are not seeing any reduced military Russian presence on the borders with Ukraine,” he told a press conference.
“So far we have not seen any de-escalation on the ground, not seen any signs of reduced Russian military presence on the borders with Ukraine,” he told a news conference in Brussels on Tuesday.
“But we will continue to monitor and follow closely what Russia is doing, what we have seen on the ground since last spring is that they are moving forces around but that doesn’t represent a real de-escalation,” he added.