The Kremlin said Tuesday the pullback of some Russian forces from Ukraine’s borders was planned but stressed Russia would continue to move troops across the country as it saw fit.
“We have always said that after the exercises are over…troops would return to their permanent bases. There’s nothing new here. This is a usual process,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Earlier Tuesday, Russia said it was pulling back some of its forces near the Ukrainian border to their bases, in what would be the first major step towards de-escalation in weeks of crisis with the West.
The move came amid an intense diplomatic effort to avert a feared Russian invasion of its pro-Western neighbour, possibly this week, and after Moscow amassed more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders.
Speaking with reporters Tuesday, Peskov rejected Western claims that Russia was planning to attack Ukraine.
“This is nothing but a totally unprecedented campaign to provoke tensions,” he said.
Peskov took particular issue with moves by a number of Western countries, including the United States and Canada, to relocate their embassies away from the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.
“This is some sort of ostentatious hysteria, which of course is not based on anything,” he said.
Instead of ramping up tensions, Russia and the West should discuss each other’s security concerns in earnest, he added.
“This is what President Putin is proposing. This is what President Putin wants,” Peskov said.
On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Putin he saw a “chance” to continue security talks with the West.
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