WATCH Russian tanks pull back from Ukrainian border
Moscow’s military chiefs have released videos of heavy armor being transported back to bases inside Russia, following the completion of scheduled military drills, one day after the country announced its first major drawdown since the start of the standoff over Ukraine last year.
The Ministry of Defense published the clips on Wednesday, writing, “The service members of the tank divisions of the Western Military District have completed their scheduled exercises and finished loading the tanks and armored caterpillar track equipment onto rail stations, and have begun a multi-modal march of around 1,000 kilometers back to their permanent bases.”
In one video, tanks in a snowy, forested area are driven onto a long transport platform. In the second video, a train carrying the armored vehicles crosses the Crimean Bridge, an 11.8-mile-long engineering feat that links the Crimean Peninsula with Krasnodar Krai in Russia’s southwest.
Moscow announced on Tuesday that it was returning some forces back to Russia who had been deployed to Belarus, near the Ukrainian border, for scheduled military drills. It was the first major military withdrawal since the end of last year, when Western officials began alleging that Russia was planning an attack on Ukraine, something Moscow has repeatedly denied. The announcement also came on the heels of warnings from American and British leaders that an invasion could take place at any moment, with some reports naming Wednesday as the day.
Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of NATO, commented that he was “cautiously optimistic” about signals coming from Moscow, but said that he had not yet seen genuine signs of de-escalation on the ground. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, however, insisted that the withdrawal was simply proceeding according to schedule, saying, “This is happening independently from whatever people are thinking, however they throw a fit about it, whoever deploys this information terrorism.”