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Russia-Ukraine crisis: Moscow says it's ordered some troops to return to bases

Ukraine diplomat says he's skeptical: "We'll believe it when we see it."

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Russia-Ukraine crisis: Moscow says it's ordered some troops to return to bases
Russian armored fighting vehicles load onto railway freight carriages in Bakhchysarai, Crimea, on Tuesday as part of Moscow ordering some troops involved in military exercises to return to their bases. Photo courtesy of Russian Defense Ministry via EPA-EFE

Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Russia's defense ministry said Tuesday that some troops participating in war exercises would return to their bases -- easing some concern about a possible invasion of Ukraine.

Russian officials, however, did not specify how many troops would return to their bases or from where they would be recalled.

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Still, the move served to ease some of the rising concerns in recent days that a Russian incursion into Ukraine was imminent, possibly as soon as Wednesday.

"As combat training measures are coming to a close, the troops, as is always the case, will conduct combined marches to their permanent garrisons," ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said, according to the state-run TASS news agency.

"Units of the southern and western military districts that have accomplished their tasks have already begun loading personnel and equipment on railway and auto transport means and will today begin heading to their military garrisons."

Civilians train to hold Kalashnikov rifles as they take part in a training session in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev on Sunday. The Kiev Defense Headquarters conducted extensive training to teach the population to defend themselves in the event of an invasion by Russian troops. Photo by Vladyslav Musiienko/UPI
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Moscow has also been holding military drills in Belarus since last week. Its troop buildup near Russia's border with eastern Ukraine over the past several months has steadily fueled concern for an invasion, although the Kremlin has repeatedly said it has no plans to move soldiers into Ukraine.

U.S. and Western officials have warned Russia against an invasion and vowed quick action should Moscow send troops across the border.

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday that the United States will move its embassy in Ukraine from the capital in Kiev to the western city in Lviv in anticipation of a possible invasion.

Following Russia's statement Tuesday about recalling troops, Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba was cautious.

"There are constantly various statements coming from the Russian Federation, so we have a rule: We'll believe it when we see it," Kuleba said, according to ABC News. "When we see the withdrawal, we'll believe in de-escalation."

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is in Moscow on Tuesday to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin as part of a two-day push to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine. Scholz visited with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev on Monday.

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Germany, which has been working with Russia on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between the two countries, is expected to tell Putin that the project would be threatened if he moves ahead with an invasion of Ukraine.

"At the borders with Ukraine, the fate of an entire country and its people is at stake at the moment due to the Russian troop deployment," German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said, according to The Washington Post. "[It is] up to the government in Moscow to withdraw the troops and create full transparency."

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