Russian troops began withdrawing to their permanent bases on Friday after a massive buildup that caused concerns in Ukraine and the West.
On Thursday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu declared an end to military maneuvers in Crimea and wide swaths of western Russia, and ordered to bring troops back to their permanent bases by May 1.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy welcomed the news of the withdrawal.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said Friday that forces that took part in mass drills in Crimea would board trains, transport planes and ships to return to their permanent bases.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Kiev would await intelligence confirmation of the pullback.
We want to see that Russian facts match Russian words, Kuleba said Friday during a visit to Romania. What was said was not enough, we want to see this implemented and all these forces removed from our border.
He added that if the rollback is confirmed, this would mean a real easing of tension.
Kuleba thanked the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and EU countries for offering very strong and immediate support to Ukraine.
At the United Nations, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric also welcomed the withdrawal and said any move that reduces tensions, as we would expect, would be welcome.
The U.S. and NATO had said the troop buildup was the largest since 2014, when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. More than 14,000 people have been killed in seven years of fighting between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatists.
The concentration of Russian troops amid increasing violations of a ceasefire in the conflict in eastern Ukraine raised concerns in the West, which urged the Kremlin to withdraw its forces.