Russia announced Wednesday the end of its military drill in Moscow-annexed Crimea and that the troops are returning to their garrisons, reported news agency AFP.

Images of military units crossing a bridge back to the mainland after completing their exercises were shown on state television, the report stated.

European Union chief Charles Michel urged Russia to ease tensions around Ukraine, as Moscow said it is pulling back more forces from the border.

“Russia has signalled that it may be open to diplomacy and we urge Russia to take concrete and tangible steps towards de-escalation,” he said, reported AFP.

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The development comes a day after the defence military said that some of its troops positioned on the border with Ukraine were being pulled back after completing their drills. The move was interpreted as the first step towards de-escalation, as tensions between Russia and the West intensified over the possibility of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine – a charge that Russia has consistently denied.

“Units of the Southern and Western Military Districts, which have accomplished their missions, are boarding trains and trucks and will head for their garrisons later today. Some units will join military convoys and will perform self-propelled marches,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov had said Tuesday. 

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Western countries had been voicing concerns over the ‘imminent’ threat of invasion as Russia stationed more than 130,000 troops near Ukraine’s border. Moscow, however, consistently denied any such intention. 

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While the news of a partial withdrawal of troops on Tuesday seemed like a positive sign, United States President Joe Biden remained wary, stating that the US had not independently validated Russia’s allegation and that an invasion was still possible. 

In remarks at the White House, Biden promised that the US would continue to give diplomacy “every chance” to prevent a Russian invasion, but he struck a sceptical tone about Moscow’s intentions. 

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“Two paths are still open. But let there be no doubt: If Russia commits this breach by invading Ukraine, responsible nations around the world will not hesitate to respond. If we do not stand for freedom where it is at risk today, we’ll surely pay a steeper price tomorrow,” Biden said.