Russia appeared to make efforts towards deescalation in its tensions with Ukraine, announcing that some troops would be withdrawing from border positions. The announcement from the Russian Defense Ministry may be a sign that an invasion into Ukraine may not be imminent.
“Units of the Western and Southern military districts that have completed their missions have already commenced loading up onto trains and transport vehicles and will start moving back to their garrisons today,” ministry chief spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said Tuesday.
The ministry also released footage showing troops on the move but did not specify how many troops were withdrawing or whether they will be withdrawing from Ukraine’s Russian or Belarusian border.
The United States is not convinced Russia has actually withdrawn troops from border locations. On Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith said the U.S. will “have to verify whether or not that is in fact the case.”
“You may remember in late December last year, Russia made a similar claim… that Russia was de-escalating,” Smith said. “When we went in to verify, we actually found no signs of that. And since then, we’ve only seen Russian forces moving in the opposite direction.”
Russia’s announced withdrawing of troops from the Ukraine border comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia is ready to continue negotiations with the U.S. and NATO regarding Russia’s security demands. Speaking after a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, President Putin said while the West has rejected some of Russia’s demands, the U.S. and NATO have agreed to discuss a ban on missile deployment to Europe, restrictions on military drills and other confidence-building measures.
“Concerning whether we want [war] or not – of course, not,” Putin said. “That’s why we put forward proposals about the negotiating process, which should have as a result an agreement on providing equal security of everybody, including our country.”
Tuesday’s developments came as officials in Ukraine reported at least 10 Ukrainian websites were hit with a cyberattack, including the websites of the country’s Defense Ministry, Foreign Ministry and Culture Ministry, as well as Ukraine’s two largest state banks. In a statement, the Ukrainian Information Ministry’s Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security suggested Russia could be behind the attack.
“It is possible that the aggressor resorted to tactics of petty mischief, because his aggressive plans aren’t working overall,” the ministry said.