According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russia has "pulled [its] troops back" from the Ukrainian border in response to "concerns over our troops" who are stationed there. The soldiers in question are now "in places of regular exercises, at training grounds," the Russian leader added, according to a report in the New York Times. Except, as of now, there's just one problem: NATO and the Pentagon haven't seen any evidence that the troop pullback actually happened.
Russia's continued presence on the border has the international community worried that Moscow might attempt to annex portions of Eastern Ukraine, just as it did to Crimea after former Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych was removed from power. There are (or if you're listening to Putin, were) about 40,000 Russian troops stationed at the border since the crisis in Crimea began.
Putin met with Swiss President Didier Burkhalter before making the Wednesday announcement. In his remarks to press following the meeting, Putin also asked pro-Russian separatists "of the southeast to postpone the referendums planned for May 11 in order to create the conditions necessary for dialogue," the AFP reported. Those planned votes, a mirror of the vote in Crimea to separate from the region from the government in Kiev, were denounced by much of the West, particularly with an actual election for president scheduled for later in the month. Separatists want increased autonomy from the new government in the country's capital city, which is really to say they want Russia to be in control.
Separatist leader Denis Pushilin told Reuters that his group — the People’s Republic of Donetsk — would consider that request at a Thursday meeting. "We have the utmost respect for President Putin," Pushilin added, "If he considers that necessary, we will of course discuss it.”
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.