Russia withdraws troops from regions near Ukraine
Over 10,000 Russian soldiers are now heading back to their home bases following month-long drills held in various regions, including those bordering Ukraine.
The pull back was announced by the Southern Military District Command, on Saturday, with Interfax reporting that forces have finished their “operational coordination” exercise. It added that more than 10,000 servicemen would now “march to their home bases from the territory of joint training ranges.”
The command confirmed that the drills, which lasted for about a month, were held in various regions, including Crimea and Rostov Oblast, which border Ukraine. The news comes amid tensions between Moscow and NATO over supposed Russian troop buildup near the country.
The Western media and some officials have been repeatedly pointing to the allegedly growing number of Russian soldiers and hardware deployed to the regions bordering Ukraine. On Thursday Bloomberg reported on yet more allegations of beefing up, citing data provided by Western defense intelligence firm Janes.
The news circulating in the media prompted Washington and its allies to warn Moscow of severe consequences in the case it does attack Ukraine. Russia repeatedly denied such plans even existed and, in turn, requested security guarantees from NATO and the US in the form of a set of proposals sent to Brussels and Washington.
In early December, the head of the Russian General Staff, Army General Valery Gerasimov, said that Moscow does not plan any offensive actions, adding that NATO pays “excessive attention” to “routine military practices” taking place within Russia’s own sovereign territory.
The list of the guarantees included a demand that NATO won’t expand eastward into states that were formerly a part of the USSR. Such a demand was already rejected by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in an interview with the German dpa news agency but both NATO and Washington expressed their readiness to negotiate with Russia on security.
Some of the other troop movements that sparked such extreme concerns in the West were apparently also linked to routine drills. In early December, Russia’s Western Military District Command announced that sniper exercises had started in several regions, including the Belgorod and Voronezh regions bordering Ukraine. These were not the only ones to host such drills, since the Smolensk region bordering Belarus was on the list as well.