Zelensky urges Russia to pull back its troops from Ukraine’s border
Ukraine is keenly awaiting a pullback of Russian troops from the country’s borders, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said at a joint briefing in Kyiv with the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Feb. 1., commenting on recent reports of Russian troop rotations.
“(Russia pulling back) is the only indicator and Russia’s only truthful answer to the question of whether they are planning to escalate the situation further,” said Zelensky.
“It is a frank response. There is no need for words. (Russia) needs to take a powerful and vital step. It is psychologically important not only for Ukrainians and Europeans, but also for the many Russians who do not want to go to war against Ukraine and die.”
Zelensky believes it is too early to celebrate over the news of troops being rotated from the Ukrainian border, and noted that a similar “drawdown” was announced by Russia in the spring of 2021. However, most of the “withdrawn” troops returned to Ukraine’s border after the announcement.
Zelensky said Russia’s maneuvers were a way to exert psychological pressure on Ukraine.
“I will be able to state clearly that Russia has pulled back its troops when it does pull back its troops,” added Zelensky.
According to Zelensky, up to 50,000 Russian troops and weaponry are deployed in Crimea, another 35,000 in Russian-occupied Donbas, and over 100,000 more on Ukraine’s border.
On Jan. 29, Russia’s defense ministry reported that the Western Military District, one of Russia’s main regional military commands, had completed “planned combat readiness check” for troops and air forces on the Ukrainian border, which were allegedly returning to their bases.
Since the end of Oct. 2021, Russia has been massing troops to the Ukrainian borders. Russia has since deployed more than 130,000 troops and offensive weapons near the Ukrainian border and in the temporarily occupied territories, according to the latest intelligence estimate from the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.
International media have speculated that Russia may invade Ukraine in early 2022, in an operation that could involve up to 200,000 Russian soldiers.
The Kremlin says the troop movements are an internal affair of the Russian Federation.
At the same time, Moscow has repeatedly accused Ukraine of planning “provocations,” and alleged that Kyiv plans to regain control of the occupied territories by military means. The Kremlin has failed to back up any of its allegations with evidence, however.
Russian troops have also been deployed to Belarus, as part of previously unscheduled ‘military exercises.’ However, Russian equipment has been spotted along the Ukrainian-Belarusian border, far from the announced zone of the ‘exercise’ area.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov has said Russian aggression towards Ukraine could intensify in late January 2022.
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