No pull-back. Ukraine’s defense minister says intelligence shows no proof of Russian troop withdrawal
The latest Ukrainian intelligence report shows no evidence of Russia pulling back its troops from Ukraine’s borders, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told the Reuters news agency in an interview on Feb. 16.
On Feb. 15, Russia’s Ministry of Defense claimed that some troops arrayed near the Ukrainian border would be moving away from Ukraine, while military and naval exercises are proceeding in Belarus and the Black Sea.
Reznikov said Ukraine will only believe that Russia is serious about defusing the current crisis if it withdraws its troops, military hardware, and weapons from the Ukrainian border – including forces deployed in Belarus for drills that are due to end on Feb. 20.
“All the troops that they brought up... must return to their permanent deployment points. Then it will be clear that they have cancelled their aggressive plans,” the defense minister said, while noting that there have been no signs that this sort of drawdown has occurred.
“Unfortunately, we cannot confirm this information by objective indicators,” he said.
“This is not confirmed either by Ukrainian intelligence data or by the data of the intelligence communities of our strategic partners.”
“Withdrawal of people is not enough – weapons and equipment must also leave.”
While Russia claimed that some troops were moving away from Ukraine, Reuters reported that Russian military exercises were reaching their peak, and the risk of Russian aggression against Ukraine would remain high for the rest of February.
Russia has been massing troops at the border since late October.
On Feb. 16, U.S.-based CNN TV channel reported citing a Ukrainian intelligence report that the total number of Russian troops at the border had increased in recent days to more than 148,000, including more than 126,000 ground troops, but it is insufficient for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
While officially denying its intention to carry out a large-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia continues to provide arms and orders to its proxy groups in non-government controlled regions of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts.
On Feb. 11, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the U.S. government “continue to see very troubling signs of Russian escalation, including new forces arriving at the Ukrainian border.”
He warned that Russia could launch an invasion at any time, including during the Winter Olympics in Beijing.
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