Russia said Tuesday it was pulling back some of its forces near the Ukrainian border to their bases, in what would be the first major step towards de-escalation in weeks of crisis with the West.
The move came amid an intense diplomatic effort to avert a feared Russian invasion of its pro-Western neighbor and after Moscow amassed more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was set to be the latest European leader to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, with talks due later in Moscow.
The crisis — the worst between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War — reached a peak this week, with U.S. officials warning that a full-scale invasion, including an assault on the Ukranian capital Kyiv, was possible within days.
On Tuesday morning, the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said some forces deployed near Ukraine had completed their exercises and were packing up to leave.
“Units of the southern and western military districts, having completed their tasks, have already begun loading onto rail and road transport and today they will begin moving to their military garrisons,” the ministry’s chief spokesman, Igor Konashenkov, said in a statement.