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Russia initiates partial troop withdrawal for Ukrainian border

russian troops


by Joseph Earnest  March 31, 2014


Newscast Media MOSCOWRussia has announced it is withdrawing some troops from along Ukraine's eastern border. The German government said Russian President Vladimir Putin told Chancellor Angela Merkel about the partial withdrawal in a telephone call.

Russia's Defense Ministry said a motorized infantry battalion was being withdrawn from the southern Rostov region after ending military drills.

There was no information on the number of troops involved. A battalion can include between 300 and 1,200 troops.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that if the reports are confirmed, "it would be a welcome preliminary step."

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the administration had not yet seen a drawdown of Russian forces.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier welcomed the Russian announcement, calling it a "small signal" that the situation might be improving. 

Russia in the past month massed thousands of soldiers on its border with Ukraine, raising concerns that after annexing Crimea it might invade other parts of Ukraine.

The Kremlin said Putin also told Merkel in their telephone call that Ukraine needs constitutional reforms to protect the interests of residents of the country's different regions.

Putin has previously spoken of the need to protect the interests of ethnic Russians and Russian-speakers in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry was cautious in its statements regarding Russian troop movements. 

"We have information that the Russian Federation is carrying out unfathomable maneuvers on the borders with Ukraine -- in some border places they are taking away troops, in others they are coming closer," ministry spokesman Evhen Perebiynis told reporters in Kyiv. "Such actions cannot fail to cause concern especially since we today do not have a clear explanation from the Russian Federation about the aims of these movements."
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 Source: Radio Free Europe










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