Putin orders troops back from Ukraine border


Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has ordered troops near Ukraine’s border to withdraw, the Kremlin says.

Units in the Rostov, Belgorod and Bryansk regions should return to their permanent bases, a statement said.

Russia has made similar statements in the past, only for Nato to report no change.

Correspondents say the removal of some 40,000 Russian troops near the Ukrainian border could help de-escalate the

The apparent build-up of Russian forces in the region has ratcheted up diplomatic tensions in recent weeks.

“In connection with the completion of the planned spring phase of military training… at ranges in Rostov, Belgorod and Bryansk regions, Putin ordered the defence minister to withdraw the troops that took part in the exercises,” the Kremlin statement said.

It was unclear how many troops would be pulled out or when it would happen.

Meanwhile clashes have continued between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russia separatist militants in eastern Ukraine.

One Ukrainian soldier was killed and one injured on Monday in an attack by separatists on a checkpoint near Sloviansk, in the Donetsk region, Ukraine’s Interfax news agency quoted the country’s defence ministry as saying.

Russia called for an “immediate end to the punitive operation and violent actions” of Ukrainian government forces, demanding “the withdrawal of troops”.

The statement also said Mr Putin “welcomes the first contacts between Kiev and the supporters of federalisation”.

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