Russia’s military has ended large-scale exercises near the borders with Ukraine, while Russian President Vladimir Putin maintains that the taking over of Crimea will not lead to war.
Russian news agencies quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying as saying that ‘the supreme commander of the armed forces of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, gave the order for the troops and units, taking part in the military exercises, to return to their bases’.
However, Putin was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying that a military intervention still remains a last resort if violence breaks out in eastern Ukraine.
"It’s a humanitarian mission, we don’t aspire to enslave any," Putin said.
The exercises were ordered by the president last week to test the readiness of Russian soldiers for action in crisis situations that threaten the country’s military security, raised fears that Moscow might deploy forces to Russian-speaking regions of east Ukraine.
Conducted in central and western Russia, the drills reportedly involved 150,000 troops, 880 tanks and 90 combat aircraft, as well as 80 ships of the Baltic and Northern Fleets.
Meanwhile, the US has suspended all military-to-military activities with Russia, including exercises, bilateral meetings, port visits and planning conferences, in response to Russia’s incursion on Ukraine.
Pentagon press secretary navy rear admiral John Kirby said: "We call on Russia to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine and for Russian forces in Crimea to return to their bases, as required under the agreements governing the Russia Black Sea Fleet."
Russian forces have already seized Crimea, an isolated Black Sea peninsula, which hosts the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet principal base, and serves as home to an ethnic-Russian majority populace.