Russia says it is withdrawing troops, Ukraine and the West want proof


Russia said on Tuesday some of its troops were returning to base after drills near Ukraine and flouted Western warnings of an imminent invasion, but NATO and the United States said they were not. had yet seen no evidence of a de-escalation that could avert war.

President Vladimir Putin said Russia was ready to continue talking to the West about security issues but would not settle for vague talk that Ukraine would not be ready to join NATO anytime soon.

The military announcement marked the first sign from Moscow that it may be ready to reverse a buildup of some 130,000 troops near its border with Ukraine that has sparked one of the deepest crises in Eastern relations. -West since the Cold War.

Tensions remained high, but German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said after meeting Putin in the Kremlin that the withdrawal of some Russian forces was a good sign.

Moscow did not specify how many units were withdrawn and how far. The US ambassador to the United Nations said Washington had yet to see evidence of backsliding.

Ukraine said the reported setback had to be seen to be believed. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “the intelligence we are seeing today is still not encouraging”.

Ukraine’s Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security said the country’s Defense Ministry and banks Privatbank and Oshadbank were the subject of a cyberattack.

“It cannot be ruled out that the aggressor used small, cheap tactics because his aggressive plans do not work on a large scale,” the center said, without specifying who the aggressor was.


The NATO chief welcomed signals from Russia over the past two days that it may seek a diplomatic solution, but urged Moscow to demonstrate its willingness to act.

“There are signs from Moscow that diplomacy must continue. This prompts cautious optimism. But so far we have not seen any signs of de-escalation on the ground from the Russian side,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters.

He said Russia often leaves military equipment behind after drills, creating room for forces to regroup.

In a joint press conference with Scholz, Putin only briefly touched on the troop movements and did not go into details.

Russia has always denied plans to invade Ukraine, saying it can exert troops on its own territory as it sees fit. He pushed for a package of security guarantees from the West, including a guarantee that Ukraine would never join NATO.

Putin told reporters that Russia would not be happy to talk about the former Soviet republic not being ready to join any time soon and demanded the issue be resolved now.

“As for war in Europe… whether we want it or not? Of course not. That is why we have put forward proposals for a negotiation process, the outcome of which should be an agreement guaranteeing equal security for all, including our country,” he said.

Scholz said the diplomatic possibilities were far from exhausted.

“For us, Germans but also Europeans, lasting security can only be achieved with Russia. So it should be possible to find a solution. No matter how difficult and serious the situation seems, I refuse to say it is hopeless,” he said.

In another development, Russia’s lower house of parliament voted to ask Putin to recognize as independent two Russian-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine.

Recognition of the self-declared people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk could kill the Minsk peace process in eastern Ukraine, where a clash between government forces and Moscow-backed separatists has killed 15,000 people.

Asked about the move, Putin said the regions’ problems should be solved on the basis of the Minsk agreements, which were signed in 2014 and 2015 but never implemented. Scholz said all parties should stick to those agreements.


Russia’s show of force near Ukraine’s borders has sparked months of frantic Western diplomacy and threats of harsh sanctions should it invade, culminating in a crescendo of US and UK warnings in recent days that this could happen at any time.

The Kremlin sought to present its actions as proof that Western narratives about the war had been both false and hysterical.

“December 15, 2022 will go down in history as the day when Western war propaganda failed. Humiliated and destroyed without a single shot,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

The Russian Defense Ministry released images showing tanks and other armored vehicles being loaded onto flat cars. But Western military analysts said they needed more information to judge the significance of the latest troop movements.

Konrad Muzyka, director of Poland-based consultancy Rochan, told Reuters it would take several days to verify the latest movements via satellite imagery.

“It should also be noted that new trains with equipment from central Russia continue to arrive near the border and Russian forces continue to move towards staging areas,” he said.

Commercial satellite images taken on Sunday and Monday showed a flurry of Russian military activity in several locations near Ukraine, including large deployments of troops and attack helicopters, and warplanes moving towards forward positions.

Russian stocks, government bonds and the rouble, which have been hit by fears of impending conflict, rose sharply as the situation appeared to ease slightly, and Ukrainian government bonds rallied. Oil fell more than 3% from a seven-year high reached on Monday.


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