Russian defense minister announces withdrawal of troops from Ukrainian border
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu has ordered troops involved in military exercises near the border with Ukraine to return to their places of permanent deployment by May 1, reports the Russian state news agency TASS.
“I believe the goals of the surprise check have been fully achieved. The troops demonstrated the ability to provide reliable defense of the country. In this regard, I’ve decided to complete the inspection activities in the Southern and Western military districts,” Shoygu said following military drills in Crimea on Thursday, April 22.
According to Shoygu’s order, military personnel from the 58th Army of the Southern Military District and the 41st Army of the Central Military District will return to their places of permanent deployment, along with troops from the 7th and 76th Guards Air Assault divisions, and the 98th Guards Airborne Division.
Today’s military drills on the Crimean Peninsula involved more than 10,000 soldiers, 1,200 weapons and units of military equipment, and more than 40 warships, TASS reported.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the main stage of the mixed exercises took place at Crimea’s Opuk training ground, as part of a surprise check of combat readiness. Military units from the Black Sea Fleet and the Russian Navy’s Caspian Flotilla were also involved in the drills.
Since late March, Russia has been massing troops near its borders with Ukraine and on the Crimean Peninsula (which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014). This has taken place against the backdrop of an escalation of the long-running conflict between Russian-backed separatists and the Ukrainian Armed Forces in eastern Ukraine.
The Russian Defense Ministry has attributed its troop movements to military drills and emphasized that this doesn’t pose a threat to anyone. However, according to U.S. estimates, this is the largest concentration of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine since 2014.