Russia says some forces withdraw in Ukraine crisis after foreign minister said country is ready to resume talks

Russia said on Tuesday that some units taking part in the drills would begin returning to their bases, raising hopes that the Kremlin may not have an impending invasion of Ukraine planned, despite although they did not give details of the withdrawal.

The announcement came a day after Russia’s foreign minister said the country was ready to continue talking about the security grievances that led to the Ukraine crisis – changing the term after weeks of heightened tensions. However, Western officials continue to warn that an invasion could happen at any time and say some military forces and assets are moving towards the border, disturbing the picture. .

It remains unclear exactly where the troops that the Russian Defense Ministry said are pulling back have been deployed or how many will leave, which makes it very difficult to understand what that means. The announcement boosted world markets and the ruble higher, but Ukrainian leaders expressed skepticism.

“Russia is constantly making various statements,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said. “That’s why we have a rule: We won’t believe when we hear it, we will believe when we see it. When we see the troops withdraw, we will believe in reductions,” he said. Climb the ladder.”

Russia has sent more than 130,000 troops near Ukraine, raising fears of an invasion. Russia denies it has any plans to invade Ukraine, despite stationing troops on Ukraine’s northern, southern and eastern borders and conducting major military exercises nearby.

New glimmers of hope accompanied a flurry of diplomacy. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was scheduled to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, a day after he sat down with the Ukrainian leader in Kyiv. Poland’s Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau, one of Russia’s most staunch European critics, was also in Moscow on Tuesday to meet Foreign Minister Lavrov, while Ukraine’s foreign minister received his Italian counterpart.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s comments were made at a televised meeting with Putin and appear to be designed to send a message to the world about the Russian leader’s views. The foreign minister suggested that Moscow should hold more talks, despite the West’s refusal to consider Russia’s main demands.

The talks “can’t go on indefinitely, but I suggest continuing and expanding them at this stage,” Lavrov said, noting that Washington had offered to discuss deployment limits. missiles in Europe, restrictions on military exercises and other confidence-building activities. measure.

Moscow wants guarantees that NATO will not allow Ukraine and other former Soviet Union countries to join as members. It also wants the alliance to stop deploying weapons to Ukraine and withdraw its forces from Eastern Europe.

Foreign Minister Lavrov said the possibility of negotiations was “far from exhausted.”

Putin noted that the West might try to draw Russia into “endless negotiations” and questioned whether there was still a chance of reaching an agreement. Foreign Minister Lavrov replied that his ministry would not allow the US and its allies to obstruct Russia’s main demands.

America reacted coldly.

“The path to diplomacy remains if Russia chooses to engage constructively,” said the White House’s chief deputy press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre. “However, we are clear about the prospect of that, given the steps Russia is taking in practice.”

One possibility this week: Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko, has pointed to the possibility of Ukraine rejecting the NATO effort – a goal enshrined in its constitution – if it prevents it. stop war with Russia.

Prystaiko then seems to reject the idea, but the fact that it has been raised suggests it is being discussed behind closed doors.

Even as there are hopeful signs, the US and European countries continue to warn.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on Tuesday reiterated that the risk of an invasion still exists, telling Sky News it “could be imminent.” But she added that “there is still time for Vladimir Putin to step over the edge”.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt issued a similar warning.

US officials say Russian troops continue to prepare for an offensive along the Ukrainian border. A US defense official said a small number of Russian ground units had moved out of larger gathering areas over the course of several days to positions closer to the Ukrainian border that would be the starting point. act if Putin launches an invasion.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the information that was not made public. CBS News was the first to report on the unit’s movement.

Maxar Technologies, a commercial satellite imaging company that has been monitoring the Russian buildup, has reported increased Russian military activity in Belarus, Crimea and western Russia, including the arrival of live satellites. helicopters, ground attack aircraft and fighter-bombers in forward locations. Photos taken over a 48-hour period also show ground forces leaving the garrison and their combat units moving into convoy formations.

However, the head of Ukraine’s Security and Defense Council Oleksiy Danilov downplayed the threat of invasion but warned of the risk of “internal destabilization” by unidentified forces.

“We do not see today that a large-scale attack by the Russian Federation can take place on February 16 or 17,” he told reporters. “We are aware of the risks that exist on our territory. But the situation is completely under control.”

As if to show defiance, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Wednesday would be a “day of national unity”, and called on the country to display its yellow-green flag and sing the national anthem in the face of “the hybrid threat”.

“It’s not the first threat faced by strong Ukrainians,” Zelenskyy said Monday night in a video address to the nation. “We are calm. We are strong. We are together.”

However, the country is preparing. Kyiv residents received letters from the mayor urging them to “defend your city”, and signs appeared in apartment buildings indicating the nearest bomb shelter. The capital has about 4,500 such sites, including underground garages, metro stations and basements, the mayor said.

Dr Tamara Ugrich said she had stocked up on cereals and canned goods and prepared emergency luggage.

“I don’t believe in war, but on TV, tensions are rising every day and it’s getting harder and harder to stay calm,” she said. “The more we were told not to panic, the more stressed people became.”


Karmanau reports from Kyiv, Ukraine. Associated Press writers Angela Charlton and Sylvie Corbet in Paris, Geir Moulson in Berlin, Jill Lawless in London, Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations, Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark and Robert Burns in Washington contributed. into this report.

Copyright © 2022 of the Associated Press. Copyright Registered. Russia says some forces withdraw in Ukraine crisis after foreign minister said country is ready to resume talks

Dais Johnston

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