MOSCOW: More than 10,000 Russian troops have been returning to their permanent bases after month-long drills near Ukraine, Interfax news agency reported on Saturday, citing the Russian military.
According to Interfax, the exercise was held in several regions near Ukraine, including Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, and the Rostov and Kuban regions in southern Russia.
Russia has deployed tens of thousands of soldiers to the north, east, and south of Ukraine, which intensified fears of a planned attack by Kiev and Western capitals over Moscow.
Russia denies any such plans, saying it needs pledges from the West – including a promise from NATO not to expand the alliance eastward towards Russian borders – because its own security is threatened by Ukraine s growing ties with the Western alliance.
Moscow also says that it can deploy its troops on its territory as it sees fit.
Estimates for the number of Russian troops recently moved closer to Ukraine vary from 60,000 to 90,000, with one U.S. intelligence document suggesting that number could be ramped up as high as 175,000.
“A stage of combat coordination of divisions, combat crews, squads at motorized units… has been completed. More than 10,000 military servicemen… will march to their permanent deployment from the territory of the combined arms area of drills,” Interfax quoted the army as saying.