After days of build-up and heightened fears of a full-scale war, Russian forces deployed along Ukrainian borders are returning to their bases, news agency AFP quoted the Russian defence ministry.
“Units of the Southern and Western military districts… will begin moving to their military garrisons,” a defence ministry spokesperson said, according to the AFP.
Meanwhile, just after the reports of Russia pulling its troops back, Ukraine also announced that it has managed to avert an invasion by Russia with the west’s help. “We and our allies have managed to prevent Russia from any further escalation. It is already the middle of February, and you see that diplomacy is continuing to work,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told reporters in Kyiv.
Over the last few weeks, Russia had deployed thousands of troops around the former Soviet country, leading to invasion fears.
The tensions were further exacerbated with the Russian military conducting military drills, including near Ukraine and in Belarus.
According to the United States, which has warned of severe economic sanctions on Russia if it moves ahead with its invasion plan, some 30,000 troops are participating in exercises. These military drills are scheduled to run until February 20.
The fear among Ukraininans about a Russian invasion was palpable, especially after reports of teenagers digging trenches. The residents are also mulling buying gas canisters and preparing an evacuation plan in case Putin’s forces invaded the country.
The reports also come just ahead of a scheduled meeting between German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Russian President Vladimir Putin to defuse tensions over Ukraine. His talks with Putin are the latest in an intense diplomatic scramble to dissuade the Russian leader from attacking Ukraine.
Earlier this week, Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu held a meeting with Putin after which he said some of the Russian war games would soon be drawing to a close.