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NATO sees no sign of Russia withdrawing troops near Ukraine

MOSCOW (AP)

On Wednesday, Russia said it would send more troops and weapons to bases, but NATO claims it shows no signs of abating as fears that Moscow could soon invade Ukraine persist.

Russia has deployed about 150,000 troops in eastern, northern and southern Ukraine, raising fears the West is planning an attack. Moscow denies it has any such plans and this week said it was withdrawing some forces and weapons, though it offered some details. Those claims have been met with skepticism from the US and its allies – even as they appear to have cooled after weeks of escalating East-West tensions.

On Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry released a video showing an armored train moving across a bridge from Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. A day earlier, The ministry has reported the beginning of the withdrawal. after the exercise near Ukraine.

However, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg poured cold water on those claims, saying the military organization had not seen any signs that Moscow was reducing its troop numbers around Ukraine.

“At the moment, we have not seen any Russian forces withdraw,” he said, before chairing a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels.

“If they actually start withdrawing, that’s something we would welcome but that remains to be seen.”

The countries in the alliance also expressed suspicion, as did leaders in Ukraine. Brimming with Russia and the West, Ukraine’s leaders have repeatedly sought to show calm but also strength throughout the crisis.

In a show of determination, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declared Wednesday – which some officials say could be the start of an invasion – a “day of national unity”. To mark the day, protesters planted a 200-meter (656-foot) national flag at a sports hall in Kyiv.

“We are united in our desire to live happily in peace,” said Zelenskyy. “We can only protect our home if we unite.”

The Russian military did not give the number of troops or weapons withdrawn and gave some other details. And while Russian President Vladimir Putin has signaled that he wants a diplomatic path out of the crisis, he has yet to commit to a full withdrawal.

Putin stressed that he does not want war and will rely on negotiations to achieve the main goal of preventing Ukraine from joining NATO.

While those comments appear to change the term, Western leaders insist that the crisis is far from over. President Joe Biden on Tuesday said US officials had not yet verified the Russian claim and British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace also said it was “too early to say” whether the pullback was genuine. ”

Wallace told Sky News: “I think what we haven’t seen is evidence of the withdrawal that has been announced by the Kremlin. “In fact, we have seen a constant buildup of things like field hospitals and strategic weapons systems. Until we see a proper de-escalation, I think we should all be cautious about the direction of movement from the Kremlin.”

On Wednesday, Russian warplanes flew on training missions over Belarus, where Ukraine’s neighbors to the north, and paratroopers held shooting exercises at firing ranges there. as part of a major war game that the West fears could be used as cover for an invasion of Ukraine.

Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei reaffirmed that all Russian troops and weapons will leave the country after the drills end on Sunday.

Russia has denied there are any plans for invasion and derided Western warnings of an impending invasion as “paranoid” and “crazy”.

Asked by the German daily Welt if Russia planned to attack on Wednesday, Russia’s ambassador to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov quipped: “Wars in Europe rarely start on Wednesdays.”

“There will be no escalation next week, next week or next month,” he said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also sarcastically warned of the invasion on Wednesday, saying that Russian officials had had a good night’s sleep that night.

Russia wants the West to keep Ukraine and other former Soviet states that are not part of NATO, stop deploying weapons near Russia’s borders, and push back forces from Eastern Europe. The United States and its allies have completely rejected those requests, but they have offered to engage in negotiations with Russia on ways to increase security in Europe.

Speaking after a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Putin said on Tuesday that the West had agreed to discuss a moratorium on missile deployments to Europe, restrictions on military exercises and construction measures. other trusts – problems that Moscow raised many years ago. He added that Russia is ready to discuss those issues, but only in conjunction with “main issues of primary importance to us.”

While Scholz reiterated that NATO’s eastward expansion was “not on the agenda – everyone knows that very well,” Putin countered that Moscow would not be guaranteed by guarantees like so.

“They are telling us that it won’t happen tomorrow,” Putin said. “Well, when will it happen? The day after tomorrow? We want to resolve this issue now as part of the negotiation process through peaceful means.”

On Tuesday, a series of cyberattacks took down the websites of the Ukrainian military, defense ministry and major banks, and Serhii Demediuk, No. 2 official at Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, blamed Russia.

In Moscow, Russian lawmakers on Tuesday sent an appeal to Putin, urging him to recognize rebel-held areas of eastern Ukraine as independent states where Russia has supported rebels in a conflict that has killed more than 14,000 people since 2014. Putin has signaled that he is not inclined to support the move, which could disrupt a 2015 peace agreement that was a coup. diplomacy towards Moscow.

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Karmanau reported from Kyiv, Ukraine and Cook from Brussels. Dasha Litvinova in Moscow, Aamer Madhani in Washington, Angela Charlton in Paris, Jill Lawless in London, and Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.

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https://www.winknews.com/2022/02/16/nato-sees-no-sign-russia-is-pulling-back-troops-near-ukraine/ NATO sees no sign of Russia withdrawing troops near Ukraine

Tom Vazquez

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