The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has been going on for years. Moscow’s maneuvers with thousands of soldiers in Crimea are therefore worrying. But now the exercises should be over.
Moscow (AP) – Russia has announced the withdrawal of several military units involved in maneuvers on the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, which absorbed Moscow in 2014.
Amid the renewed tension in the conflict in Ukraine, the exercises had aroused international concern. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on a visit to Crimea on Thursday, according to the Tass agency, that the soldiers had passed the test of their defense readiness and would return to their permanent deployment sites from Friday.
According to Russian reports, 10,000 soldiers took part in the exercises. More than 40 warships, ground troops, fighter jets and air defense units were involved. Troop marches against the Russian, but also on the Ukrainian side, had recently raised fears that fighting in the conflict zone of eastern Ukraine could escalate again.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the relocation of the Russian soldiers. “The reduction in the number of troops at our border reduces tension accordingly,” Zelenskyj wrote on Twitter.
According to Shoigu, units will also be withdrawn from Russia’s western border. It was initially unclear how many soldiers there are in total. At the same time, the Russian Defense Minister declared that the military equipment of a troop unit should be brought near Voronezh and stored there for an autumn maneuver. The place is about 170 kilometers from the Ukrainian border as the crow flies.
Accordingly, initially cautious remarks came from NATO. “We have taken note of the announcement of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu,” a spokesman said in the evening. NATO remains vigilant and will continue to closely monitor Russia’s “unjustified expansion of military presence” in and around Ukraine. Any de-escalation in Russia would be “important and overdue”.
For nearly seven years, parts of the areas of eastern Ukraine along the Russian border have been controlled by separatists loyal to Moscow. The UN estimates that more than 13,000 people were killed in the fighting. A peace plan agreed in 2015 through the mediation of Germany and France has been put on hold.
Despite the current ceasefire, a soldier was killed on Thursday as a result of shelling by rebels loyal to Moscow, the Ukrainian army said. The insurgents, in turn, accused government forces of shelling civilian objects on the western edge of the Donetsk rebel stronghold. An almost 60-year-old man was seriously injured. Independent confirmations of the reports were not initially available. In total, about 60 people have died in the conflict area since the beginning of this year.
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