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Russian troops pullback from drills near Ukraine to be completed by June 1

May 21, 2014, 15:42 UTC+3 MOSCOW
Russia unfolded large-scale military exercises in the Rostov, Belgorod, and Bryansk regions in April as Kiev launched a military operation against the country’s Russian-speaking south-eastern regions
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©  AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin

MOSCOW, May 21. /ITAR-TASS/. Russia’s military units, which have been conducting drills in the country’s southern regions bordering on Ukraine, completed packing up and will return to places of their permanent deployment by June 1, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

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.

Kiev and the West voiced their concerns that the Russian military drills in the proximate vicinity of Ukraine were Moscow’s preparations to invade the south-eastern regions of Ukraine, although Russia repeatedly denied the accusations saying the military exercise was a planned event, open to foreign observers.

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.

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