In response to US and NATO claims that Russia isn’t withdrawing troops from areas near Ukraine, the Kremlin said Thursday that troop pullbacks take time and dismissed the Western skepticism as “unfounded accusations.”
“It’s clear the grouping for the exercises was built up over many weeks, and it is of course impossible to withdraw it in a single day. They can’t just take off and fly away … it takes time,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. “As always unfounded accusations.”
Russia announced Tuesday that some troops in Crimea were returning to their permanent bases. On Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry released a video that it said showed military equipment crossing the Crimean bridge from Crimea into Russia as part of the pullback, but the US dismissed it as “propaganda.”
Russian officials have said that troops currently in Belarus will return to Russia after drills conclude on February 20th. Peskov said again on Thursday that there are no plans to extend the deployment in Belarus.
The US continues to accuse Russia of plotting an invasion of Ukraine. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin claimed Thursday that despite Moscow’s announced pullback, Russia was still amassing forces near Ukraine.