Ukraine crisis: NATO defense ministers meet Western skeptics over claims Russia is withdrawing troops – live | world news

Russia announced further troop withdrawals from Crimea as the country pursues a “partial” withdrawal announced by Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.

Corn the majority of these troops would return to permanent bases located only a few tens of kilometers from Ukrainemeaning they could be quickly redeployed in the event of an escalation or attack.

The new troop movements were announced by the Russian Defense Ministry, which said units from the Southern Military District had “completed their participation in remote tactical games on the Crimean Peninsula and are heading to their bases by train. “.

Military vehicles, including tanks and self-propelled artillery, were loaded onto trains and sent over a bridge from Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014, to the country’s mainland, the ministry said.

Izvestia, a Russian newspaper with reliable Defense Ministry sources, reported that the units returning to their bases were the 3rd, 42nd and 150th Motorized Rifle Divisions.

Video posted by Zvezda television channel of the Ministry of Defense reportedly showed elements of the 42nd Motorized Rifle Division crossing the Crimean Bridge.

But as analysts have noted, two of the divisions are stationed very close to Ukraine. The 3rd Motorized Rifle Division has permanent bases in northeast Ukraine while the 150th Motorized Rifle Division is garrisoned near Rostov-on-Don, just southeast of Ukraine.

If the units did indeed return to their permanent bases, only the 42nd Motorized Rifle Division would make a longer trip to Chechnya.

Ruslan Leviev of the open-source Conflict Intelligence team drew up a map of their permanent bases, noting that some of the troops were “in the process of withdrawing towards the border with Ukraine.”

At the same time, he noted, there were more reports of heavy weapons like TOS-1A thermobaric rocket launchers, arriving in Kursk from the Volga river town of Samara.

The questionable troop movements associated with Putin’s “partial withdrawal” underscore the skepticism expressed by Western officials that Russia may not be preparing to reduce its pressure on Ukraine anytime soon.

Christi C. Elwood