Ukraine Calls Russia's Bluff Over Claims Troops Being Pulled Back

Russia said on Tuesday it is pulling back some of its troops from near the border with Ukraine, but Kyiv has asked to see evidence that it has indeed withdrawn the soldiers, amid fears of an imminent invasion.

Despite more than 100,000 Russian troops being stationed at the Western border with Ukraine for some weeks now, Moscow has consistently denied that it is planning a war.

But Western powers and Ukraine are not as optimistic, given that Russian invaded the region in 2014, annexing Crimea in Eastern Ukraine. The Biden administration has previously warned that an invasion could be imminent.

Russia's defense ministry said Tuesday that units of the Western and Southern military districts are beginning to return from training to base stations by rail and road.

Responding to the news that Russia was intending to pull some troops back, Ukraine's foreign minister Dmitry Kuleba was skeptical.

At a briefing in Kyiv, Kuleba said that Ukraine must see evidence of Russian troop withdrawal, and only then can the country talk about de-escalation, European Truth reported.

"Different statements are constantly being made from the Russian Federation, so we already have a rule: we will see, then we will believe. We will see a diversion—we will believe in de-escalation," Kuleba said.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg shared a similar sentiment at a Tuesday press conference in Brussels, Belgium. He said that there were no signs of de-escalation on the ground.

Several leaks from NATO intelligence services have even given potential dates of a planned Russian onslaught, with one scenario predicting an attack as early as Wednesday.

"Everything is now in place for a new attack, but Russia still has time to step back from the brink," Stoltenberg said in the press conference. He urged Moscow "to stop preparing for war and start working for a peaceful solution to the crisis."

Newsweek has contacted the White House for comment on reports Russia is withdrawing some of its troops from the border.

Russia is demanding "security guarantees" that Ukraine will not join NATO, something the Trans-Atlantic military alliance has rejected.

At least 12 countries have told their nationals to leave Ukraine. The U.S. and U.K. governments have withdrawn many of their diplomats from Ukraine, fearing an imminent invasion.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday that the U.S. is relocating its Ukraine embassy from the capital of Kyiv to the city of Lviv because of concerns of conflict.

But on Monday, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said he believed there was still room for diplomacy and suggested to Russian President Vladimir Putin that Moscow continue the negotiations to try and get security commitments from the West.

Lavrov told Putin that the U.S. had put forward concrete proposals on reducing military risks but said responses from the European Union and NATO were not sufficient.

Ukraine border guards
Members of the Ukrainian Border Guard patrol along the Ukrainian border fence at the Three Sisters border crossing between, Ukraine, Russia and Belarus on February 14, 2022 in Senkivka, Ukraine. Russia said on Tuesday that is pulling back some of its troops from near the border with Ukraine, but Kyiv called its bluff, asking to see evidence that it has withdrawn the soldiers. Chris McGrath/Getty