Russia returns some troops to base in areas near Ukraine – report

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Some troops in Russia’s military districts adjacent to Ukraine are returning to their bases after completing drills, Russia’s defense ministry was quoted as saying on Tuesday, February 15, a move that could de-escalate frictions between Moscow and the West.

Russia’s Interfax news agency cited the ministry as saying that while large-scale drills across the country continued, some units of the Southern and Western military districts have completed their exercises and started returning to base.

Russia has amassed over 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders, prompting fears of an invasion, especially as Moscow’s February 10-20 joint drills with Belarus mean that Ukraine is almost encircled by the Russian military.

Russian markets reacted positively to the news and the rouble, which has been under pressure due to fears of fresh Western sanctions in the event of a war, gained 1.5% shortly after the defense ministry announcement.

Although Moscow has denied ever planning to attack Ukraine, it has demanded legally binding guarantees from the United States and NATO that Kyiv will not be allowed to join the military bloc. Washington and Brussels have so far refused to make such pledges.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was expected in Moscow later on Tuesday to meet President Vladimir Putin in a high stakes mission to avert war. — Reuters

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