Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Tuesday that he’s ready to discuss Russia’s security concerns with the U.S. and NATO, and has agreed to pull some Russian troops away from Ukraine. Ahead of his remarks, the Russian military announced some of the units positioned near Ukraine are returning to their home bases.
According to the Associated Press, After meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday, Putin said the U.S. and NATO rejected his calls to keep Ukraine out of their alliance, stop major weapons deployments near Russia and withdraw troops from eastern Europe. However, Putin said NATO had agreed to discuss some trust-building security measures he favors.
The trust-building security measures Putin is ready to discuss include limiting intermediate-range missile deployments in Europe and providing more transparency about military drills.
In a Kremlin transcript of a Monday meeting between Putin and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, the Russian military official characterized the Russian military activity near Ukraine as a series of military readiness drills to practice defending “against various types of hypothetical enemy attacks.” Shoigu said some of the military drills have already finished and others will end soon.
On Tuesday, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, the spokesperson for the Russian Defense Ministry, said as specific units complete their portions of the training, they will begin returning home. Konashenkov said troops belonging to Russia’s southern and western military commands have already completed their portions of the training and are returning to their respective home bases.
“In the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, a complex of large-scale measures for the combat training of troops and forces continues,” Konashenkov said. “Almost all military districts, fleets and airborne troops take part in them.”
Konashenkov announced a joint Russian-Belarusian live-fire drill is still scheduled for Feb. 19 at the Obuz-Lesnovsky training ground in Belarus, which borders Ukraine to the north. Konashenkov said other upcoming drills include naval drills in the seas surrounding Russia. The Russian navy drills appear to include training in the Black Sea which touches Ukraine’s southern coast.
“As the combat training measures are completed, the troops, as always, will make marches in a combined way to the points of permanent deployment,” Konashenkov said. “The units of the Southern and Western military districts, having completed their tasks, have already begun loading onto rail and road transport and will begin moving to their military garrisons today. Separate units will march on their own as part of military columns.”
Russia had amassed more than 100,000 troops around Ukraine in a months-long build up. U.S. officials anticipated Russia would invade Ukraine by the end of the week.