Members of the Border Guard Service of Ukraine patrol the Ukrainian border fence at the border crossing “Three Sisters” between Ukraine, Russia and Belarus on February 14, 2022 in Senkovka, Ukraine.
Chris McGrath | Getty Images
Moscow is beginning to return some troops on the border with Ukraine to its bases, the Russian government announced on Tuesday, but Ukraine’s president and Western officials have called for caution in accepting Russia’s claims at face value.
In a statement Tuesday early Tuesday, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Kanashenkov said troops recently stationed in Russia’s southern and western military districts bordering Ukraine had completed military exercises and “have already begun.” loading on rail and road transport and today will begin to move to their military garrisons.
Kanashenko also said that Russian troops currently participating in military exercises in neighboring Belarus, which borders Ukraine in the north, will return to their places of permanent deployment after the February 20 exercises.
However, in response to Russia later on Tuesday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba said: “We in Ukraine have a rule: we do not believe what we hear, we believe what we see. If these statements are followed by a real conclusion, we believe in the beginning real de-escalation ”.
Thousands of Russian troops began to operate military exercises last week in a move that was widely seen as a show of strength by Moscow. The exercises came after more than 100,000 soldiers, tanks, missiles and even fresh supplies of blood were dumped on Russia’s border with Ukraine.
Moscow has repeatedly insisted that it has no plans to invade Ukraine, despite warnings from Western countries in recent days that an invasion is likely to be inevitable.
On Tuesday, the Kremlin said Russia had always said its troops would return to their bases after participating in military exercises, according to Reuters.
Calling U.S. warnings that Moscow would launch an attack on Wednesday “unreasonable hysteria”, the Kremlin spokesman said tensions had been exacerbated by the huge build-up of Ukrainian forces and the U.S.’s assertion of imminent war, the news agency reported.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference on Tuesday that while there were grounds for “cautious optimism” about the situation in Ukraine, the military alliance had so far “seen no signs of de-escalation on the ground from Russia.” side “.
“Russia has amassed fighting forces in and around Ukraine, unprecedented since the Cold War,” he said. “Everything is in place for a new attack. But Russia still has time to retreat from the border, stop preparing for war and start working for a peaceful solution.”
NATO has not received any response from Russia to a request for a meeting to discuss the current situation, Stoltenberg told reporters, adding that any transition from Russia to Ukraine would violate international law.
He added that Russia’s ongoing efforts to destabilize Ukraine through its 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for Russian separatists in the country, as well as the current build-up of troops along Ukraine’s border and near NATO territory, mean organizations may need to consider long-term security adjustments.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the British Foreign Office told CNBC in an email that Britain “will judge the Russians by their actions, not by words.”
Timothy Ash, senior sovereign strategist at BlueBay Asset Management for developing countries, said in a note Tuesday that “if Putin really blinked, it would be a huge win for Biden. [Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy] and the West, “adding that it would be difficult to see the whole situation as anything but a major defeat for the Russian president. Vladimir Putin.
“What has he achieved?” he said. “He managed to unite the West around NATO, which again has a common goal. Ukrainian sovereignty [has been] confirmed, even strengthened. “
As a result of Russia’s aggressive activities, the Ukrainian military was now better armed and better able to defend itself, Ash added.
“Russia is called an unreliable supplier of energy – the West will accelerate diversification from Russian energy resources,” he said. “Some will say [Putin] was the Russian leader who actually lost Ukraine. It will remain his mark in history – he accelerated the western orientation of Ukraine. “
On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Putin on television that the Kremlin could use security the security guarantees she demanded – including diplomacy – “far from exhausted.”
While Lavrov offered to continue on the diplomatic route, he added: “We have repeatedly warned that we will not allow endless talks on issues that need to be resolved today.”
Russia has demanded that Ukraine never join NATO, and has said it wants the organization to reduce its presence in Eastern Europe.
Addressing the Ukrainian population on Monday, Zelensky said that Ukraine “wants … to resolve all issues solely through negotiations.” But he added that Ukraine could respond to any aggression with its “big army”, which has “unique combat experience and modern weapons.”
In a telephone conversation Monday, the US president Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson agree that a “crucial window for diplomacy” remains, reiterating that a significant package of sanctions – including reducing European countries’ dependence on Russian gas – will be imposed in the event of escalating Russian aggression. .
Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Raw, the current chairman of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, is due to convene talks in Moscow on Tuesday between Lavrov and OSCE Chairman-in-Office in Ukraine Mika Kinunen.
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is in Moscow on Tuesday to meet with Putin. Scholz met with Zelensky in Kyiv on Monday.
Although the Kremlin has doubled its claims that Russia has no plans to invade Ukraine, the United States and its allies warn that the invasion can happen “any day”. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken ordered to close the US Embassy in Kiev on Mondayrelocation of employees to the city of Lviv in western Ukraine.