“Units of the southern military district that ended tactical exercises at training grounds on the Crimean peninsula are returning by rail to their permanent bases,” Russian news agencies reported, citing the Ministry of Defence.
State-run television in Russia also showed columns of military hardware returning to mainland Russia via a newly-constructed bridge.
The withdrawal order is the latest in reports of a military drawdown around Ukraine: Russia had announced another withdrawal earlier in the week.
However, despite Moscow’s claims, the West has alleged that Russia is increasing its military presence around Ukraine’s borders, and Washington has warned that an invasion of Ukraine could be due any time. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has also levelled similar allegations against Moscow, which reportedly has amassed more than 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders.
Reacting to accusations by the US and its NATO allies, the Kremlin on Thursday also released a statement explaining the logistical side of a military withdrawal.
“The Defense Ministry has reported that certain phases of the exercises are coming to an end, and as they do, military units are returning to permanent bases,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told The Moscow Times.
“This is a process that will take some time,” Peskov further said, adding that military units “can’t just take to the air and all fly away” and that the announced withdrawal “has a schedule” that is being followed.
Meanwhile, Russia is continuing its negotiations with the US and NATO about security guarantees, and Moscow is slated to release a written response to solutions proposed by the US and NATO soon.