For the first time in weeks, the number of troops near the Ukraine border actually diminished. Russia pulled back some of its soldiers, though the vast majority remain, reports the BBC. By the count of the Wall Street Journal, the move might even be considered merely symbolic: It estimates that only 10,000 of 130,000 troops have been pulled back. But coupled with Vladimir Putin's public embrace on Monday of more talks, the development is raising hope that an attack once seemed as imminent might not be. (Putin reiterated his willingness to negotiate with the US and NATO on Tuesday, per the AP.) Here is how the New York Times sums things up: The drawback is "the strongest signal yet that Russia might be trying to de-escalate the military standoff near the Ukrainian border, but it was far from clear that the threat of war had passed."
Russian defense officials explained the move by saying that the troops were returning home because their military exercises were complete. However, such drills continue elsewhere, including on the Black Sea and in neighboring Belarus. In the meantime, both sides were claiming victory over the drawback:
- Ukraine: "We have managed together with our partners to deter Russia from any further escalation," said Ukraine Foreign Minister Dymytro Kuleba.
- Russia: Tuesday "will go into history as the day western war propaganda failed," said Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. "They have been disgraced and destroyed without a single shot being fired."
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