The US struck a note of skepticism on Thursday after Russia announced it would pull its forces from its border with Ukraine.
Following a surprise combat readiness check earlier Thursday morning, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu declared an end to military exercises in the area and ordered Russian troops to return to places of permanent deployment.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said the Biden administration has “heard words” announcing the withdrawal, but maintained “what we’ll be looking for is action.”
“The United States will continue to monitor the situation. We’ll coordinate closely with Ukrainian officials as well as allies and partners,” he told reporters.
The US and NATO had warned the level of Russian forces amassed on Ukraine’s border had not been seen since 2014 when Moscow occupied and later illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, and began its military support for separatist rebels in the eastern Ukrainian region known as the Donbas.
In announcing the withdrawal Shoygu said Russia will closely follow the transfer of NATO troops for the ongoing Defender Europe 2021 military exercise that will run through June. It will span the Balkans and the Black Sea region.
“We are closely monitoring the deployment of alliance troops to the area of the upcoming Defender Europe 2021 exercise. In Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria, coordination centers have been established to ensure the meeting of NATO troops and shipments,” said Shoygu, adding that weapons, military, and special equipment were being collected at Greek ports.
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