The return of the Russian troops to their permanent bases was ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, but NATO and Pentagon later stated they saw no sign of the military units’ pullback.
“All military units and detachments, which held planned drills on remote fire ranges, will return to the bases of their permanent deployment by the beginning of the summer exercise period (June 1),” the ministry said.
Russia unfolded large-scale military exercises in the Rostov, Belgorod, and Bryansk regions in late April as Kiev launched a military operation against the country’s Russian-speaking south-eastern regions, which refused to recognize the new Ukrainian authorities and declared independence.
Massive protests against the new Ukrainian authorities, who were propelled to power in Kiev amid riots during a coup in the country in February, erupted in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking south-eastern territories after the secession of the Crimean Peninsula, which declared independence on March 11 and joined Russia on March 18 following a referendum.
Kiev has been conducting a punitive operation against pro-federalization activists in south-eastern regions of Ukraine, although the authorities call it an anti-terrorism operation.