Conflicts & War

Nato casts doubt on Russia’s claims of troop withdrawal

Moscow/Brussels/Kiev, Feb 16 (EFE).- Russian troops deployed in Crimea were returning to their barracks, the Russian defense ministry said Wednesday, after completing military drills on the peninsula that Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

But at the start of a two-day summit in Brussels, Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance had yet to see evidence of a de-escalation along Ukraine’s border.

“The units of the Southern Military District, which have completed their participation in tactical exercises at the training grounds of the Crimean Peninsula, are marching to their permanent deployment points,” the ministry said.

“The personnel of the unit loaded armored vehicles on caterpillar tracks: tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and self-propelled artillery mounts onto railway platforms at loading stations,” the statement added.

On Tuesday, Russian defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov had announced that other Russian military units had also started returning to their permanent bases after concluding drills in western and southern areas near the border with Ukraine.

But Stoltenberg, who was meeting on Wednesday morning with the alliance’s defense ministers, said that they “have not seen any de-escalation on the ground – on the contrary, it appears that Russia continues their military buildup.”

He reiterated Nato’s willingness to “sit down and discuss” with Russia but reminded Moscow that the alliance “was prepared for the worse.”

“We really hope that Russia will engage in meaningful dialogue and choose diplomacy instead of confrontation,” Stoltenberg added.

US news outlet Politico reported that US president Joe Biden’s administration had warned its allies of a possible Russian invasion on Wednesday, which Ukraine chose to mark as a Day of Unity.

During a special televised event to mark the event on Wednesday, Ukraine’s defense minister Oleksii Reznikov said that the situation on his country’s borders was stable.

“This morning, like every single day, I received another summary with figures and facts, and they fully correspond to our forecasts and do not contain anything unexpected,” Reznikov said.

“Our intelligence officials see everything. We are in constant contact with our partners, our data coincide and our country is ready for any scenario,” he stressed.

In an address to the nation on Monday, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said: “We are told that February 16 will be the day of the attack. We will make it the Day of Unity. The relevant decree has already been signed.”

However, Moscow has repeatedly denied it plans to invade Ukraine, accusing the West of creating “hysteria”. EFE


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