U.S., NATO say no signs Russia pulling back troop

Russia said it was pulling back more forces from around Ukraine on Wednesday, the latest move in an apparent effort to ease tensions that has done little to assuage Western fears the Kremlin might be planning an imminent invasion of its neighbor.

Moscow says that it is pulling back some of the 150,000 troops that the United States and its allies warn have converged around Ukraine on three sides. But with the world searching for signs that a deadly new conflict on European soil might be averted, days of high-stakes signaling from Russia have been met with skepticism by the West.

“We continue to see critical units moving toward the border, not away from the border,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Wednesday. “There’s what Russia says and then there’s what Russia does — we haven’t seen any pullback of its forces.”

He added, “It would be good if they followed through on what they said, but so far we haven’t seen it.”

In Kyiv, where Ukraine’s leaders have sought to play down that alarm, the country held a defiant national day of unity.

Meanwhile, in an apparent bid to back up its claims of a partial withdrawal, the Russian defense ministry released video showing a trainload of armored vehicles moving across a bridge away from Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula that Moscow annexed in 2014.

It followed a similar announcement a day earlier, while Russian President Vladimir Putin also talked up the possibility of a diplomatic resolution to the crisis.

But leaders in Washington and Europe have urged caution, with Moscow’s intentions unclear and little detail given about how many troops were pulling back and where they were headed.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels that in fact Russia had “increased the number of troops — and more troops are on the way.”

Meanwhile, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, called it “the largest build-up of troops on European soil since the darkest days of the Cold War.”

Like U.S. officials, she said Russia had been “sending conflicting signals” over what it planned to do next.

President Joe Biden said Tuesday it was still “very much a possibility” that Russia could invade Ukraine, warning it could also lead to a spike in American energy prices.

While the U.S. is ready to engage in diplomacy, he said, his administration has not verified any partial drawdown of Russian troops.

Mark Galeotti, a senior associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, a London think tank, said invasion was not inevitable, and that Putin would likely prefer gaining concessions without force.

But despite Russian claims of a partial withdrawal, “nothing has changed on the ground in any meaningful way,” Galeotti tweeted Wednesday. “Putin could have invaded yesterday, he can still do so tomorrow.”

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.