Russia orders partial pullback from Ukraine border region

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MOSCOW — Russia’s Defense Ministry ordered a partial pullback of troops from the border with Ukraine on Thursday, signaling a possible de-escalation in a military standoff that had raised alarm that a new war in Europe could be looming.اضافة اعلان

The order came a day after President Vladimir Putin, in an annual state of the nation address, rattled off a list of grievances against Western nations, including threats of new sanctions. Putin warned against crossing a Russian “red line” with additional pressure on Moscow. The huge buildup on the Ukrainian border was in place while he spoke.

That mobilization had increasingly worried the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, European capitals and Washington, and was seen as an early foreign policy challenge for the Biden administration.

The Russian defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, who had called the buildup a test of the Russian military’s readiness, said that the units deployed to the border area had shown their capabilities and should now return to their regular positions.

“I think the goals of the readiness test are achieved fully,” Shoigu said, according to the official Russian news agency Tass, which reported that he had ordered troops to return to their barracks by May 1.

However, the order specified that troops departing from one large field camp about 100 miles from the border with the eastern Ukrainian region known as Donbass should leave their armored vehicles there until the fall. Satellite images had shown hundreds of trucks and tanks parked in fields in the area.

A Russian ban on civilian air traffic near the Ukrainian border until Saturday also remained in effect Thursday.

Soon after Shoigu’s announcement, Ukraine’s president — who only two days earlier addressed his nation on television, warning of the possibility of war — said he welcomed Russia’s move.

“The reduction of troops on our border proportionally reduces tension,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine said on Twitter.

Ukraine, he added, “is always vigilant, yet welcomes any steps to decrease the military presence” and “de-escalate the situation in Donbass. Ukraine seeks peace.”

In Washington, a State Department spokesperson said Moscow’s announcement of a military pullback had been noted but “what we’ll be looking for is action.”

“We’ve heard the announcement; we’ll be watching closely for that follow through,” Ned Price, the State Department spokesperson, told journalists.

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