Russian Defense Minister Shoigu orders troops to pull back from Ukraine border

Russia announced on Thursday that it will withdraw troops near Ukraine and annexed Crimea, deeming its military exercises over.

The enormous deployment, including dozens of navy ships, hundreds of warplanes and thousands of troops, has been heavily criticized by Western powers.

It was viewed as a show of force amid tensions with Ukraine.

“The troops have demonstrated their ability to ensure a reliable defense of the country,” said Russia’s defense minister Sergei Shoigu in a press release, adding: “So I decided to complete the inspection activities in the southern and western military districts” bordering Ukraine.

Shoigu’s statement did not make clear, however, how many additional troops had been moved to Crimea – nor did he indicate whether all would be pulled back to their permanent bases.

“I consider the goals of the snap check of readiness fulfilled,” he noted.

There has also been an increasing number of violations of a ceasefire held in the region in recent weeks, as well as growing tensions between the two nations.

According to NATO and the United States, the build-up of forces grew to its largest since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and lent support to separatists in Ukraine’s east.

Meanwhile, Moscow rejected the concerns as it warned Kiev against trying to re-take the rebel-held eastern region. It said such an operation could force Russia into an intervention to protect civilians.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba encouraged the West on Tuesday to strengthen sanctions against Russia as he expressed concerns of the continued build-up of troops.

More than 2,000 paratroopers practiced a landing with 60 military vehicles on Thursday alone, while fighter jets covered overhead.

The Russian Defence Ministry said the military drills in Crimea had involved 60 ships, more than 10,000 troops, 200 aircraft and 1,200 military vehicles.


Arab Observer

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