The Russian Defense Ministry has ordered the withdrawal, starting this Friday, of the troops deployed along the Ukrainian border and in the Crimean peninsula that was annexed with an illegal referendum in 2014. Moscow, however, maintains the armor and heavy weapons, ready for other maneuvers scheduled for this fall, Defense reported. The announcement, which comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened an "asymmetric" response to anyone acting against Russia's interests, may help reduce the serious tensions with Ukraine and the West, which they had demanded from the Kremlin. to remove his boots from the area.
Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, who led military exercises in the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine, has ordered the General Staff of the Armed Forces, the military chiefs and the airborne troops to begin returning to their home bases as of 23 February. April.
The United States and the EU have estimated the deployment at about 100,000 soldiers, an even greater mobilization than in 2014. In addition, satellite images have shown hundreds of trucks and tanks.
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Shoigu, who had previously claimed that the deployment was part of the Russian Army's combat readiness in response to NATO "threatening military activities", has stated that he is ordering the withdrawal now because the deployed units have demonstrated their capabilities. "I believe that the objectives of the readiness test were fully achieved," said the minister, according to the official Russian news agency Tass. The withdrawal will be gradual.
Heavy weapons - including missile artillery - and armored vehicles will remain at a large firing range in the Voronezh region, 160 kilometers from the border with Ukraine, awaiting further maneuvers in October, Defense said. Russia is also conducting naval maneuvers in the Black Sea, near the Ukrainian coast, where it has deployed some 10,000 soldiers, more than 60 ships and more than a thousand aircraft, amphibious vehicles and other equipment; but Shoigu has not specified whether this display remains.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has expressed his satisfaction with the withdrawal of Russian troops. Ukraine, he said, remains vigilant although "welcomes any steps to reduce the military presence and reduce the escalation in the Donbas." In the Ukrainian region at war for seven years between Kiev troops and pro-Russian separatists supported by Moscow, the fighting had raged for days. "The reduction of troops on our border proportionally reduces the tension," said Zelensky, who proposed a meeting with his Russian counterpart in the Donbas on Tuesday.
Putin has rejected this Thursday the possibility of meeting with Zelensky in the Ukrainian region, although he has said that he is open to a meeting in Moscow, but only on bilateral relations;
the Kremlin has always denied its involvement in the conflict.
Shoigu's announcement may limit speculation about Russia's intentions with his maneuvers, which some saw as a way to take the pulse of US President Joe Biden and his support for Ukraine, which he has said remains unbroken.
Also reduce the tension at a time when Russia is going through the worst moment in its relations with the West.