Feb 16, 2022: According to a report by Reuters, the latest Ukrainian intelligence report, compiled on Wednesday, found no evidence of Russia withdrawing its forces from near Ukraine’s borders, Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov told Reuters in an interview.
He says Ukraine will only believe that Russia is serious about easing the current crisis if it deploys troops, including military troops, military hardware and weapons to the exercises in Belarus, which end on February 20. According to the Ukrainian military, about 140,000 joint Russian troops and pro-Russian separatist forces are currently stationed near Ukraine, including 125,000 ground troops. He said there were 9,000 Russian troops in Belarus alone.
Ukraine on the other hand, has around 35,000 troops in its eastern Donbass region, where Kyiv has been battling a Russian-backed separatist insurgency since 2014 according to Reznikov.
Russia’s Defense Ministry earlier released footage showing tanks, infantry and self-propelled artillery emerging from the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014.
“Unfortunately, we cannot confirm this information by objective indicators. This is not confirmed either by Ukrainian intelligence data or by the data of the intelligence communities of our strategic partners,” Reznikov said.
Reznikov’s comments raised suspicions among Ukraine and its Western backers about Russia’s claim that it was withdrawing its troops after exercises near Ukraine. The West fears they could be used in a military strike on Ukraine, which Moscow has repeatedly denied.
He said even if Russia did withdraw forces from one sector of the border, they were likely to be deployed elsewhere along the border.
“All the troops that they brought up… must return to their permanent deployment points. Then it will be clear that they have cancelled their aggressive plans,” he said.
“Withdrawal of people is not enough – weapons and equipment must also leave,” Reznikov added.
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