Tuesday, 20 May 2014 - 19:34
Russian troops prepare withdrawal from near Ukraine border
Russian troops ordered by President Vladimir Putin to return to their bases from near the Ukrainian border were preparing their departure today.
Putin yesterday, announced that the troops, estimated by NATO to number 40,000, were to return to bases after the end of spring exercises.
Their presence had raised deep concerns in the West after Moscow's annexation of Crimea in March and rebel uprisings in eastern Ukraine against the pro-Western authorities who took power in February following the ouster of a Kremlin-backed government.
The withdrawal could ease tensions ahead of a presidential vote in Ukraine on Sunday, but both Washington and NATO -- which noted it was the third time Moscow had made such a claim -- have said they saw no sign of a pullback.