Rus­sia ‘starts’ Ukraine bor­der pullout

Daily Trust - - WORLD -

Ukraine’s de­fence min­istry has said there has been a grad­ual with­drawal of Rus­sian troops from its bor­der that may be linked to Wash­ing­ton’s lat­est push for a diplo­matic so­lu­tion to the worst East-West cri­sis since the Cold War.

Olek­siy Dmy­trashkivskiy, Ukraine’s de­fence min­istry spokesman said on Mon­day that he could not con­firm how many soldiers the draw­down in­volved or the num­ber of troops still sta­tioned at Rus­sia’s bor­der with its for­mer Soviet satel­lite.

“In re­cent days, the Rus­sian forces have been grad­u­ally with­draw­ing from the bor­der,” Dmy­trashkivskiy told the AFP news agency.

US and EU of­fi­cials es­ti­mated over the weekend that Rus­sia’s sud­den mil­i­tary buildup along Ukraine’s east­ern fron­tier had reached be­tween 30,000 and 40,000 soldiers.

Kiev’s Cen­tre for Mil­i­tary and Po­lit­i­cal Stud­ies an­a­lyst Dmytro Tym­chuk said on Mon­day that his sources had told him that Rus­sia had only 10,000 soldiers re­main­ing near the bor­der by Mon­day morn­ing.

The Ukrainian de­fence min­istry of­fi­cial said Kiev had not been for­mally no­ti­fied of the draw­down by Moscow and there­fore did not know pre­cisely why the troops were be­ing moved.

“This could be linked to a reg­u­lar ro­ta­tion of soldiers,” said Dmy­trashkivskiy. “Or it may be linked to the Rus­sian-US ne­go­ti­a­tions.”

US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry met Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov in Paris on Sun­day for talks that reached no break­through on the cri­sis but ended with an agree­ment for the sides to re­sume ne­go­ti­a­tions again soon.

Dur­ing that meet­ing, Lavrov said he pressed Rus­sia’s call for a federal Ukraine of re­gions free to choose their own eco­nomic model, lan­guage and re­li­gion.

Kerry said he agreed to work with the Ukraine govern­ment on those is­sues, but called for the re­moval of “il­le­gal and il­le­git­i­mate” Rus­sian troops in Crimea, which he said were re­spon­si­ble for cre­at­ing a cli­mate of in­tim­i­da­tion in main­land Ukraine.

In Crimea, Rus­sian Prime Min­is­ter Dmitry Medvedev an­nounced on Mon­day that Moscow would de­clare the penin­sula as a spe­cial eco­nomic zone with tax breaks to at­tract in­vestors, ac­cord­ing to Reuters news agency.

He made the an­nounce­ment dur­ing his visit to the for­mer Ukrainian re­gion, flaunt­ing his coun­try’s grip on the Black Sea penin­sula fol­low­ing its an­nex­a­tion.

Crimean of­fi­cials have said that the lo­cal econ­omy is fac­ing a short­fall and needs eco­nomic stim­u­lus from Rus­sia.

Medvedev promised to raise the level of salaries for mu­nic­i­pal em­ploy­ees and pen­sions to aver­age Rus­sian lev­els and to mod­ernise the re­gion’s hos­pi­tals, which he said were out­dated.

Re­ports say there are an es­ti­mated 30,000 to 40,000 Rus­sia soldiers along Ukraine’s east­ern fron­tier [EPA].

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