Russia has started a partial withdrawal of military personnel from the regions bordering Ukraine, the country’s State Border Service (SBS) chief Mykola Lytvyn has confirmed.
Lytvyn was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying: "We have information that troops are being pulled away from the state border. Reconnaissance, radio communication and interception units have fallen behind."
However, Pentagon spokesperson US Army colonel Steve Warren said the movements are not significant in comparison with the large numbers of soldiers left behind, who continue to pose a credible threat to the stability of the region.
The withdrawal was ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin last week, in a bid to help create ‘favourable conditions ahead of the presidential vote in Ukraine’, as reported earlier by The Associated Press.
NATO and western countries have repeatedly claimed that Russia had accumulated 40,000 troops along its border with eastern Ukraine, where the Ukrainian Security Forces are conducting an anti-terrorist operation to drive out pro-Russian separatists from government buildings and restore authority.
The withdrawal comes as Ukraine regained control of the Sergei Prokofiev International Airport in the eastern city of Donetsk, following a day of air strikes and gun battles with pro-Moscow militants.
The assault claimed the lives of dozens of insurgents, who had hijacked the airport on 26 May demanding the withdrawal of Ukrainian forces guarding the perimeter.
Ukrainian Internal Affairs Minister Arsen Avakov said in a statement that the airport is under government control and the enemy suffered heavy losses.
The Ukrainian Army is continuing the operation, despite Russia’s call for an immediate end to military action.