The Russian Defense Ministry said troops from its Southern and Western military districts — parts of which are next door to Ukraine — had begun returning to their home stations, though the announcement did not say precisely where those troops were permanently based, where they had been exercising, or how many of them were withdrawing.
Russia has amassed more than 130,000 troops near Ukraine’s border in recent weeks, according to US estimates, raising fears from Western and Ukrainian intelligence officials that an invasion could be imminent.
“Units of the Southern and Western military districts, having completed their tasks, have already begun loading onto rail and road transport and today they will begin moving to their military garrisons. Individual units will march on their own as part of military columns,” Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in a statement posted on Facebook.
Konashenkov added, however, that large-scale drills continued.
“In the armed forces of the Russian Federation, a complex of large-scale operational training measures by the forces continues, with almost all military districts, fleets and airborne troops taking part in them,” he said. “As part of the test of the reaction forces of the Union State, a joint Russian-Belarusian exercise ‘Allied Resolve-2022’ is being held on the territory of the Republic of Belarus.”
In addition, Konashenkov said a series of naval drills — involving surface ships, submarines and naval aviation — was underway both in “operationally important areas of the world’s oceans” and in the waters adjacent to the territory of Russia.
“Exercises are continuing with formations and military units at other training grounds on the territory of the Russian Federation,” he said. “A number of combat training measures, including exercises, have been carried out in accordance with the plan.”
Ukrainian Foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba expressed skepticism about the Russian announcement at a news conference in Kyiv on Tuesday.
“Various statements are constantly being made from the Russian Federation, so we already have a rule: ‘Do not hear and then believe. But do see and then believe,'” Kuleba said. “When we see the withdrawal, then we will believe in de-escalation.”