Russia announces troop withdrawal
Russian troops have completed their training drills in Belarus, close to neighboring Ukraine, and will begin returning to their places of regular deployment, the Ministry of Defense in Moscow has announced amid fears in the West that the exercises could have been a precursor to an invasion.
Major General Igor Konashenkov, the chief spokesperson for the ministry, delivered the news in a video released by military chiefs on Tuesday.
“As the forces complete their military exercises, they will, as always, complete a multimodal march back to their permanent bases,” Konashenkov stated. “The divisions of the South and West Military Districts have finished their tasks and have already begun loading the rail and automobile transport, and today will begin moving back to their military garrisons.”
He explained that different divisions would be moving separately in military columns. Video clips released by officials also showed armor being loaded onto railway carriages to return home.
Russia began conducting the joint “Union Resolve” drills with Belarus last week, and they are scheduled to last until February 20. According to a statement from Moscow, the exercises are designed to test and develop the two nations’ abilities to “halt and repel foreign aggression” and will involve ground forces, heavy equipment such as tanks, and air force maneuvers.
Western leaders have been voicing fears for months that Russia could be planning a full-blown invasion of Ukraine, and have pointed to reports of a troop buildup on the two countries’ shared border, as well as the exercises in Belarus, as signs of aggressive intentions. Moscow has consistently denied that it plans to attack, and has called for security agreements that would limit the activity of NATO, the US-led military bloc, in Eastern Europe.
Last Wednesday, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki called the drills “concerning,” but said that she would not make any predictions about their significance regarding a potential invasion. US President Joe Biden has previously warned that Moscow could order an offensive at any moment.