Vladimir Putin orders troop withdrawal from Ukrainian border
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered Russian soldiers to return to their permanent bases, following the completion of military exercises in the southern Rostov region near the Ukrainian border.
Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a statement: "The minister reported the commander-in-chief that the summer season for military training at the ranges of the Southern military district was over.
"After hearing the report, Putin ordered to start the withdrawal of the troops to their permanent stations.
"That would be some 17,600 servicemen, who trained over the summer at the ranges of the Rostov region."
Putin was briefed by the Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu following a meeting with permanent members of the Russian Security Council, which assessed various threats to the country.
RIA Novosti has reported that Russian soldiers have already started to pull out.
The Russian withdrawal comes ahead of a planned meeting between Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko at the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit in Milan, Italy, later this week.
Ukraine and the Nato alliance have accused Russia of deploying several thousand troops and hundreds of tanks and armoured vehicles to eastern Ukraine, supporting pro-Russia rebels against the Ukrainian Army, Reuters reported.
Moscow has consistently denied the charges, and also announced troop withdrawals from the Ukrainian border in March and May.
However, Nato and US officials said that they have no evidence of soldiers being moved away from Ukrainian territory, BBC News reported.
A ceasefire remains in place in eastern Ukraine, although some clashes have been reported in and around Donetsk.
According to UN estimates, more than 3,600 people, including Ukrainian soldiers, rebels and civilians, have been killed in Ukraine, with several thousands injured, since fighting started in April.
Image: Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered Russian soldiers to withdraw from the border with Ukraine. Photo: courtesy of the Russian Presidential Press and Information Office.