Russia Orders Partial Pullback From Ukraine Border Region

Russia Orders Partial Pullback From Ukraine Border Region

Russia Orders Partial Pullback From Ukraine Border Region

Russia Orders Partial Pullback From Ukraine Border Region

MOSCOW — Russia’s Defense Ministry ordered a partial pullback of troops from the border with Ukraine on Thursday, signaling a possible de-escalation in a military standoff that had raised alarm that a new war in Europe could be looming.

The order came a day after President Vladimir V. Putin, in an annual state of the nation address, rattled off a list of grievances against Western nations, including threats of new sanctions. Mr. Putin warned against crossing a Russian “red line” with additional pressure on Moscow. The huge buildup on the Ukrainian border was in place while he spoke.

That mobilization had increasingly worried the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, European capitals and Washington, and was seen as an early foreign policy challenge for the Biden administration.

The Russian defense minister, Sergei K. Shoigu, who had called the buildup a test of the Russian military’s readiness, said that the units deployed to the border area had shown their capabilities and should now return to their regular positions.

“I think the goals of the readiness test are achieved fully,” Mr. Shoigu said, according to the official Russian news agency Tass, which reported that he had ordered troops from central Russia and Siberia to return to their barracks by May 1.

However, the order specified that troops departing from one large field camp about 100 miles from the border with the eastern Ukrainian region known as Donbas should leave their armored vehicles there until the fall. Satellite images had shown hundreds of trucks and tanks parked in fields in the area.

Soon after Mr. Shoigu’s announcement, Ukraine’s president — who only two days earlier had addressed his nation on television, warning of the possibility of war — said he welcomed Russia’s move.

“The reduction of troops on our border proportionally reduces tension,” President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said on Twitter.

Ukraine, he added, “is always vigilant, yet welcomes any steps to decrease the military presence” and “de-escalate the situation in Donbas. Ukraine seeks peace.”

Ukraine, a vast country in Eastern Europe that was once a key part of the Soviet Union, has been a flash point of East-West tensions for many years. Efforts by Ukraine’s government to align itself with the West have deeply angered the Kremlin, which sees Ukraine as part of Russia’s sphere of influence in the region.

The tensions have been elevated since 2014, when Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula and backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. The conflict between Ukrainian forces and separatists has killed more than 13,000 people, and increased violations of a cease-fire there preceded the Russian military buildup.




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