Russia appears to be continuing with its military build-up on Ukraine’s borders despite claiming it is moving troops away from the area, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said ahead of a defense ministers meeting in Brussels.
Stoltenberg said there were no visible signs Wednesday of “de-escalation on the ground” a day after Moscow asserted it was moving some troops and weapons back to bases after the completion of military drills. Stoltenberg added that Russia has “always moved forces back and forth” and that its release of video footage over the last 24 hours purporting to show its forces on the move “does not confirm a real withdrawal.”
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Stoltenberg said NATO allies “remain ready to engage with Russia.”
The Kremlin on Wednesday said it was in the process of sending back even more troops to permanent bases. It didn’t specify how many. Russia’s defense ministry released a video that it said showed armored vehicles moving across a bridge away from Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Russia illegally annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
In remarks at the White House on Tuesday, President Joe Biden noted that U.S. officials and military experts had not verified Russia’s troop claim. “Indeed, our analysts indicate that they remain very much in a threatening position,” Biden said. Ukrainian officials, too, said they were awaiting confirmatory evidence of Russian withdrawals.