Russia completes 10,000-soldier exercises near Ukraine
Moscow – Russia announced on Saturday that more than 10,000 troops had completed month-long exercises near Ukraine, amid Western accusations that Moscow was planning an invasion of its former Soviet neighbor.
The defense ministry said in a statement that the exercises for the forces of the Southern Military District had taken place in a multitude of southern regions, including Rostov, Krasnodar and Crimea, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014. .
But the exercises also took place further afield, notably in Stavropol, Astrakhan, in the North Caucasus republics and even in Armenia, Russia’s ally in the Caucasus.
The Defense Ministry said troops were returning to their permanent bases and standby units would be ready for the New Year’s holidays.
Western countries have accused Russia of having gathered more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine before a possible winter invasion.
According to Kiev estimates, the number of Russian troops along Ukraine’s borders has risen from around 93,000 in October to 104,000 today.
Russia says it is free to move forces within its territory as it sees fit and denies planning a full-scale attack.
He presented the West with sweeping security demands, declaring that NATO must not admit new members and seeking to prevent the United States from establishing new bases in former Soviet republics.
Tensions reached a boiling point on Wednesday when President Vladimir Putin said Russia would take “appropriate retaliatory” military action in response to what he called the West’s “aggressive stance”.
But he turned it down the next day, saying he had seen a “positive” response from the United States to Russia’s security proposals and said talks would take place next month.
A senior US official said Washington was “ready to engage in diplomacy from early January”, both bilaterally and through “multiple channels.”
On Saturday, a German government official said that Moscow and Berlin had agreed to meet “in early January”.
German leader Olaf Scholz and Putin agreed on Thursday during a phone call for a meeting between the Chancellor’s diplomatic adviser, Jens Ploetner, and the Kremlin’s interlocutor on relations with Ukraine, Dmitry Kozak.
In an interview on Friday, a senior Ukrainian security official said there was no risk of an imminent invasion of Russia.
Kiev has been battling pro-Russian separatists shortly after Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014 in a conflict that left more than 13,000 dead.
The West has long accused the Kremlin of providing direct military support to pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. Russia denies the allegations.
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