For weeks, Russia stoked tensions in Eastern Europe by building up a powerful force of some 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border. On Thursday, the Kremlin announced that it had achieved what it wanted with the exercise and ordered its army to pack their bags and return home.
According to BBC News, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu made the announcement during a visit to Crimea, which was seized and annexed by Russia during the last major conflict in the region seven years ago.
Shoigu said the military “snap check” plan had been carried out and the tens of thousands of soldiers only had to return.
“The troops have demonstrated their ability to provide a credible defence for the country,” said the minister, who added that some soldiers will be ordered to return to their “permanent bases” in Russia on Friday, and that the whole operation will be completed in just over a week, May 1.
Shoigu’s announcement came immediately after Russia held massive military exercises in Crimea on Thursday to mark a show of force on the Ukrainian border that put Kiev and its Western allies on high alert for weeks. The Defense Ministry said the exercises involved 60 ships, more than 10,000 troops, 200 planes and more than 1,000 military vehicles.
Shoigu supervised the operation in a helicopter and, after his order to withdraw, he said the military had proven its readiness to respond to any “adverse developments” during Exercise Defender Europe 2021. NATO – a mass warfare game led by the US military and set in Europe. until June.
The build-up of troops has caused panic in Ukraine – and, while the pullout will be relieved – Russia has shown it can lift a force majeure at the border if necessary. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told the the Wall Street newspaper this week: “We don’t know if Putin will decide to attack, but he will certainly be ready to do so.”
Last week, in a call between President Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin, the White House said Biden had “underscored the United States’ steadfast commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.” . Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Thursday urged Western allies to punish Moscow’s threatening behavior with new sanctions.
Later, after the announcement of the withdrawal, Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko said: “We are monitoring the situation.”
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