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Russia Announces Start to Ukrainian Border Troop Withdrawal
By Staff, Agencies
The Kremlin announced on Thursday that it would begin to withdraw its troops massed near the Ukrainian border and annexed Crimea which had for weeks caused grave concerns in the West and Kiev.
Moscow had described the buildup as a military exercise designed to test their defenses and made the decision to recall their troops after deeming the operation a success.
"The troops have demonstrated their ability to ensure a reliable defense of the country," said the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, quoted in a press release.
"So I decided to complete the inspection activities in the southern and western military districts" bordering Ukraine.
Considering these giant maneuvers "fully achieved," Shoigu ordered the "return of the troops to their permanent deployment points" from Friday.
The soldiers deployed in Crimea will leave there by May 1, he added.
Shoigu had arrived a few hours earlier in Crimea, a peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014, to attend a military exercise, at the height of tensions with Kyiv and the West in the region.
According to the Defense Ministry, these maneuvers involved 10,000 soldiers, the air force, around 40 warships, air defense, and airborne troops.
Russia had stepped up operations in the Black Sea and Crimea in recent days, after deploying tens of thousands of troops on the borders of Ukraine over the past three weeks, with which it has been at loggerheads since 2014.
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