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Ukraine skeptical after Kremlin announces withdrawal of some forces near border

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba expressed doubts about a Russian statement that some units that had taken part in military exercises near the country’s border would return to their bases.

Kuleba told a press conference in Kyiv that “various statements are constantly being made from the Russian Federation, so we already have a rule: ‘Don’t hear and then believe. But see and then believe.”

When we see the withdrawal, then we will believe in de-escalation,” Kuleba said.

However, he welcomed the fact that diplomacy had successfully deterred further Russian attacks so far.

“Together with our partners, we have indeed succeeded in deterring Russia from further escalation. Today is mid-February. And you see that diplomacy continues to work,” Kuleba said.

Kuleba also spoke about the steps taken by the Russian parliament to recognize breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent. These regions are called the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk and have been controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014.

“I would like to recall once again the unchanging position of Ukraine. If a decision on recognition is taken, Russia will de facto and de jure withdraw from the Minsk agreements. With all the ensuing consequences. We have already warned our partners from this position.”

The Minsk agreements aim to find a way to settle the status of the secessionist regions.

Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the withdrawal of some Russian troops was a “normal process” after the end of military exercises.

“We have always said that after the end of the exercises, after stages that must be completed within a certain period of time, the troops will return to their places of permanent deployment. This is also what is happening this time around. It’s a normal process,” he said.

“Russia has conducted and will continue to conduct military exercises throughout the territory of the Russian Federation – this is an ongoing process, as in all countries of the world,” he added.

According to an earlier statement from the Russian Defense Ministry, military exercises will continue, involving troops from “almost all” Russian military districts.

Speaking to members of the press on Tuesday, Peskov said Russia had the right to conduct such military exercises on its territory, adding that it was “non-negotiable”.


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