News / Europe

Russia Appears to Pull Some Troops from Ukraine Border

FILE - A Russian flag is seen behind a Russian army vehicle.
FILE - A Russian flag is seen behind a Russian army vehicle.
VOA News
Russia on Monday withdrew some troops from its border with Ukraine, as it sent its prime minister  to the newly annexed Crimean peninsula with promises of wide-ranging economic relief.

Details of the troop drawdown were not clear late Monday, but both Russian and Ukrainian officials acknowledged that some forces had been pulled back from the tense border area.  Russian authorities referred to the withdrawal of a battalion - a unit that generally consists of 500 to 700 troops. U.S. officials estimate Moscow has deployed 40,000 soldiers to the area.

The U.S. State Department has cautiously welcomed the announcement.
 
"If reports that Russia is removing some troops from the border region are accurate, it would be a welcome preliminary step. We would urge Russia to accelerate this process," said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

She added that the U.S. also continues to urge Russia to engage in a dialogue with the government in Kyiv to de-escalate the situation, while respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, NATO sources are saying that they are aware of reports of small numbers of Russian troops relocating, but believe these reports are inconclusive at this time.

There are many reasons why military units move, including for exercise purposes, resupply, repositioning, or for troop rotation, the sources said.

Medvedev visits Crimea

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev flaunted Russia's grip on Crimea by flying to
the region and holding a government meeting there on Monday, angering Ukraine and defying Western demands to hand the peninsula back to Kyiv.

The Ukrainian government denounced the visit, a few hours after the latest round of crisis talks between Russia and the United States ended inconclusively, as a "crude violation" of the rules of diplomacy.

Medvedev said he was leading a delegation of Russian officials for a meeting on what he calls the "development" of the peninsula.

The prime minister said Russia will create a special economic zone in Crimea, offering incentives for business with lower taxes and simpler rules. Medvedev also promised to boost salaries and pensions in Crimea, as well as improve the peninsula's transportation system and infrastructure.

His trip on Monday came a day after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry demanded Russia pull back thousands of its troops massed along its border with Ukraine.

Kerry told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Paris Sunday that the troops are creating a "climate of fear" in Ukraine and that their presence does nothing for diplomacy.

The United States estimates Russia has 40,000 troops along the border, while Kyiv says the number is closer to 100,000.

The White House said on Monday that, following Sunday's talks in Paris, Kerry and Lavrov had agreed to speak again about ways to resolve the crisis in Ukraine but that no date for such a conversation had been set.

Merkel-Putin call

Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed how Moscow and the West can help “restore stability” in Ukraine during a telephone call on Monday, the Kremlin said.
 
Putin told Merkel that Ukraine must enact constitutional reforms to ensure that the interests of all its regions are respected, and called for measures to end what he called a “blockade” of Moldova's breakaway Transdniestria region, his office said.

Putin and Merkel discussed “opportunities for international support for the restoration of stability” in Ukraine, the Kremlin statement said. It gave no details, but Russia has indicated it wants Western states to press the Kyiv government to grant broad autonomy to Ukraine's regions.

The U.S. has insisted that any matters pertaining to Ukraine’s governance are for Kyiv to determine.

Western officials have expressed concern that Putin may have set his sights on pro-Russian Transdniestria, on Ukraine's western border, following the annexation of Crimea.
 
Putin's comments appeared aimed at turning the tables, blaming others for tension over Transdniestria and saying it could not be ignored.
 
“The Russian leader spoke of the need to take effective measures aimed at removing the de facto external blockade of this region and at searching for a fair and comprehensive solution to the Transdniestria issue,” the Kremlin statement said.
 
Transdniestria, with a population of half a million, has run its own affairs since 1992 after fighting a brief war against the Moldovan government over fears that it might join Romania after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia has a permanent garrison of peacekeepers there.

According to a Merkel spokesperson, Putin also said that he ordered a "partial withdrawal" of Russian troops from Ukraine's border."

VOA's Scott Stearns and Jeff Seldin contributed to this story; some reporting by Reuters
 
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Comments
     
by: JohnWV from: USA
April 01, 2014 6:06 AM
Two territorial conquests: Russia's of Ukraine and America-Israel's of Palestine. By civilian vote, Crimea preferred to join Russia and the remainder of Ukraine was interested. America-Israel has annexed much of the state of Palestine, reduced it to an open air prison, and repeatedly used attack jets and white phosphorous against its inmates and infrastructure for generations. Fathers, mothers and children are being killed, splattered actually. We enjoy a near 100 to one kill ratio. However can Russia be sanctioned when we are not?

by: Regula from: USA
March 31, 2014 11:36 PM
Funny how the US/EU find every reason to accuse Russia of increasing tensions in Ukraine, and never even take into account that the tensions in Ukraine were caused by the US/EU orchestrating a completely illegal and undemocratic coup to depose a democratically elected president.

Does any Ukrainian believe the government will be less corrupt if any of the so far known contenders - Yatsenyuk, Tymoshenko, The Chocolate Baron tycoon - get elected? Surely, you would have to believe in miracles to think that any of these would impose anything other than more poverty on the Ukrainian people.

When the southern and eastern provinces see how spectacularly Crimea develops - they will break away and join Russia - surely, everybody presented with a choice of Ukrainian IMF austerity and Russian generosity would choose the latter. Russia doesn't have to "conquer" these provinces - they will want to join Russia. So will Transdniester and likely Odessa.Oohoo for the US/EU! Maybe the Bilderberg connivings don't work in face of Russia's way more genuine democratic efforts. The west is blind to its own despotism and projects it onto Russia - but the Ukrainians see, and have to live, the facts. That is something entirely different.

If Yatsenyuk and the US/EU had just a little foresight, they would see that Putin has the best, most feasible and most beneficial for all proposals to date.

by: Phat Panha from: Cambodia
March 31, 2014 10:34 PM
Does Putin assure he doesn't wanna make new cold war VS US and other Alliances, such as western countries? So please make highest cautious about all of Putin's administration activities.

by: meanbill from: USA
March 31, 2014 12:18 PM
Russia has studied how China became an international powerhouse, and Putin is trying to do the same, (like North Korea is also trying to do)..... with Special Economic Zones..
Russia also has 100 million dollars, that they used to pay for rent to Ukraine for the Black Sea Fleet, to invest in the special economic zone, and other Crimean projects.
In Response

by: Regula from: USA
March 31, 2014 11:19 PM
Crimea us less developed than Russia - hence the special economic zone: to attract investment to bring jobs and with them better living standards to Crimea, so it can attract tourists and develop into a thriving region. There is nothing wrong or copied in that, just economic development to catch up - so that the difference in GDP between Ukraine (about $3700/person/year vs. Russia about $14600/person/year can be bridged and pensions can be increased to Russian levels ($300/month vs. Ukraine: $180/month, now cut down to $80/month!). This will integrate Crimea truly into Russia - so it isn't a poor province at Russia's edge, but a special place to visit - tourism brings money.

by: Bilderberg Scum from: All Over
March 31, 2014 10:11 AM
The 2014 meeting of the Bilderberg Group – a secretive organization of global power brokers – will take place in Denmark at the end of May. Image: Queen Beatrix arrives at Bilderberg (Infowars). The announcement was made today on the official ‘Bilderberg Meetings’ website, which states simply, “The 62nd Bilderberg meeting will take place at the end of May 2014 in Denmark.” No city or hotel has yet been identified as the location of the meeting, although the group always holds its conferences at luxury resorts either in or nearby major cities or exclusive remote tourist resorts. The 2014 confab marks Bilderberg’s first return to Scandinavia since the group met in Sweden in 2001 and the first time the conference has been held in Denmark since 1969. The elitist organization, which meets on an annual basis in either Europe, the United States or Canada, is comprised of some of the most powerful heavyweights of industry, banking, politics, royalty, academia and technology. Last year, the likes of Jeff Bezos, Timothy Geithner, Christine Lagarde, Henry Kissinger, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, and British Prime Minister David Cameron were all in attendance.

While the mainstream media habitually fails to afford Bilderberg the press coverage it demands – characterizing the group as a mere “talking shop” – innumerable examples of the organization having a direct impact on global policy have been documented in recent years, leading to charges that the group is fundamentally undemocratic in nature. This has led to bigger and bigger anti-Bilderberg demonstrations in recent years, including last year in Watford, UK when thousands of people attended an event that was held in the grounds of the Grove Hotel, where Bilderberg was holding its meeting. Prior to last year’s meeting, Infowars reporters who had booked to stay at the Grove Hotel days before Bilderberg members arrived had their reservations canceled due to unspecified “security” concerns. In 2010, former NATO Secretary-General and Bilderberg member Willy Claes’ admitted that Bilderberg attendees are mandated to implement policy decisions that are formulated during the meeting. There are innumerable other examples of how Bilderberg has influenced major global events ahead of time, picking Presidents and Prime Ministers on a regular basis with total contempt for the democratic process.

Last year, Italian lawyer Alfonso Luigi Marra requested that the Public Prosecutor of Rome investigate the clandestine organization for criminal activity, questioning whether the group’s 2011 meeting in Switzerland led to the selection of Mario Monti as Prime Minister of Italy. In 2009, Bilderberg chairman Étienne Davignon even bragged about how the Euro single currency was a brainchild of the Bilderberg Group.
In Response

by: Regula from: USA
March 31, 2014 11:25 PM
The Bilderberg group is in fact one of the think tanks that influence or make US foreign policy.

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