Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Russian troops on Ukraine’s border dismantled all equipment and were returning to their bases. This is three days after his initial declaration the troops would move and NATO and the US still do not see any movement by Russia.
After spending a day dismantling field camps, packing and preparing military vehicles, forces in the Rostov, Belgorod and Bryansk provinces “have begun to move toward train stations and airfields”, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.
It said troops were returning to their permanent bases, but did not specify how many troops were leaving the border provinces and made no mention of two other provinces that border eastern Ukraine.
Yet, US Army Secretary John McHugh said there is no evidence of a withdrawal: “What we know thus far is that there has been certain troop movements, but I have received no confirmation, either through Pentagon sources or NATO sources, that there has been a wholesale repositioning of those troops off the border,” McHugh told a news conference during a visit to Estonia.
The whole situation is a mess. Early Tuesday morning, the Agence France-Presse stated Russian troops moved at least six miles away from the border, but then Interfax-Ukraine reported Ukraine’s defense ministry said the Russians did not retreat. NATO and the Pentagon confirmed the defense ministry’s statement.
Russia moved the troops to the border in mid-March and Putin ordered a withdrawal three different times. However, none ever came to fruition. On May 12, NATO released two satellite images that proved Putin was lying. There are about 40,000 troops on the border and Putin said Russia has every right to protect Russian speakers in east Ukraine.