More than 10,000 Russian troops are returning to their permanent bases after drills in the region near Ukraine, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported Saturday.
“A stage of combat coordination of divisions, combat crews, squads at motorized units … has been completed. More than 10,000 military servicemen … will march to their permanent deployment from the territory of the combined arms’ area of drills,” Interfax said, quoting the Russian army.
The Interfax report said the drills were held in Crimea and the southern Russian regions of Rostov and Kuban. Since November, the US has been warning that Russia is planning an invasion of Ukraine based on a troop buildup in the region. But Moscow has strongly denied the charge and points to the increase in US and NATO activity in the region as the source of tensions.
Amid simmering tensions over Ukraine, Russia is seeking security guarantees from the US and NATO and has submitted a list of proposals to Washington. Chief among Russia’s demands is a guarantee that NATO won’t expand further eastward and absorb Ukraine. Russia is also seeking mutual agreements on the deployment of military hardware in Eastern Europe.
The US and Russia have agreed to start negotiations on the security guarantees in January. The withdrawal of Russian troops could be designed to reduce tensions ahead of the talks. In recent weeks, US officials have toned down their rhetoric by only threatening sanctions if Russia invades Ukraine as opposed to making vague statements that could be taken as military threats.