Russia has started a partial withdrawal of its soldiers along Ukraine’s eastern border, in an apparent attempt to ease a diplomatic standoff with the West over its annexation of Crimea.
Ukraine Main Command Center deputy chief major-general Oleksandr Rozmaznin was quoted by Reuters as saying that the number of soldiers has dropped, but the number cannot be confirmed as the ‘exact figure is pretty approximate’.
Ukraine Foreign Ministry spokesman Evhen Perebiynis said Russia is carrying out unfathomable manoeuvres on the borders with Ukraine, including troop withdrawal in some places, while in others they are coming closer.
"Such action cannot fail to cause concern especially since we today do not have a clear explanation from the Russian Federation about the aims of these movements," Perebiynis added.
Meanwhile, the Russian Defence Ministry said a motorised infantry battalion is being pulled back from a region near Ukraine’s eastern border, following the completion of the month-long military exercises.
"The battalion … has completed its field exercises at the Kadamovsky training grounds in the Rostov region and is beginning its march to its permanent base in the Samara region," the ministry stated.
The German Government claims that the partial withdrawal was informed by the Russian President Vladimir Putin to German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a telephone conversation.
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the pull-out would be a welcome preliminary step, and urged Moscow to accelerate the process.
"We also continue to urge Russia to engage in a dialogue with the government in Kiev to de-escalate the situation, while respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine," Psaki said.
After talks with Russian Foreign Ministry Sergei Lavrov in Paris, US Secretary of State John Kerry had told that the progress on resolving the crisis in Ukraine depended on a Russian soldier pull-back from Ukraine’s borders.
Russia had accumulated approximately 40,000 soldiers near its border with eastern Ukraine, while an additional 25,000 remain inland on alert and prepared to move in, CNN earlier reported citing two unnamed US officials.