Russia starts to withdraw some of its troops from Ukraine’s border

Russia starts to withdraw some of its troops from Ukraine’s border
Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov announced that some troops on exercises near the border with Ukraine were being sent home. / wiki
By bne IntelliNews February 16, 2022

Russia’s defence ministry said that it is withdrawing some of its troops from the border with Ukraine as their exercises come to an end.

Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in televised remarks that troops that had completed this month’s military exercises from bases in the western and southern military districts would be returned to their home bases, whereas those that had travelled further from the central and Far Eastern bases would remain where they are for the moment.

The announcement follows on from comments made by Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu to Russian President Vladimir Putin at a meeting on February 14 that military exercises were coming to an end and some exercises had already been completed.

While the details remain vague, observers hope that the return of troops to bases is at least a gesture by the Kremlin that it is willing to de-escalate tensions that have soared in recent days following a briefing by White House national-security adviser Jake Sullivan on February 12 warning that an attack on Ukraine could come “any day.” US President Joe Biden went further on the same day predicting the attack would start on February 16.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova suggested Tuesday's news would show it was the West that had been raising tensions with its accusations of an invasion plan.

"February 15, 2022, will go down in history as the day Western war propaganda failed. Humiliated and destroyed without a single shot being fired," she wrote on social media.  

The announcement also tallies with the assurances that troops would be sent home after the exercises were over that French President Emmanuel Macron claims to have got during his meeting with Putin at the start of last week – claims that the Kremlin later denied.

The withdrawal announcement comes as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives in Moscow for one-on-one talks with Putin, the last significant EU leader to meet with the Russian president in this round of talks on the eight-point list the Russian Foreign Ministry sent Nato allies in the middle of December laying out its demands for a new security deal.

It also comes after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at the same meeting with Putin and Shoigu that diplomacy has not been exhausted.

“There is still a way forward. Talks shouldn’t continue endlessly, but at this stage, I would propose to continue and increase them,” Lavrov said.

The markets immediately reacted to the news with the ruble gaining more than a ruble against the dollar to strengthen from over RUB77 to RUB75.2 at the time of writing. The RTS stock index also gained some 80pp to return to 1,500 where it was trading as geopolitical fears eased somewhat with Macron’s arrival in Moscow.

Ukrainian bonds reacted even more vigorously rising 6% on the news. Ukraine’s bonds have been particular unpopular since this crisis began to gather momentum.

Konashenkov said: “Units of the southern and western military districts, which have accomplished their missions, are boarding trains and trucks and will head for their garrisons later today,” as cited by the Guardian.

The defence ministry also released a video of Russian tanks and other heavy weaponry being loaded on to railway wagons, the Interfax news service reported.

Russia has been holding large unscheduled joint exercises with Belarus that involved more than 30,000 troops and a variety of sophisticated hardware that are slated to end on February 20.