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Russia to pull back troops, but keep weapons near Ukraine

A Ukrainian serviceman walks in a trench by a mannequin as he stands at his post on the frontline with Russia-backed separatists near the town of Zolote, in the Lugansk region on April 8, 2021 (STR / AFP)
A Ukrainian serviceman walks in a trench by a mannequin as he stands at his post on the frontline with Russia-backed separatists near the town of Zolote, in the Lugansk region on April 8, 2021 (STR / AFP)

Russia’s defense minister Sergei Shoigu orders troops back to their permanent bases following massive drills amid tensions with Ukraine, but says that they should leave their weapons behind in western Russia for another exercise later this year.

“I consider the goals of the snap check of readiness fulfilled,” Shoigu says. “The troops have shown their capability to defend the country and I decided to complete the drills in the South and Western military districts.”

Shoigu says the troops should return to their bases by May 1, but he ordered to keep the heavy weapons deployed to western Russia as part of the drills for another massive military exercise later this year.

Ukraine’s president said the Russian troops’ pullback will help ease tensions and thanked international partners for their support.

“The reduction of troops on our border proportionally reduces tension,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy writes on Twitter. He notes that Ukraine remains vigilant, but “welcomes any steps to decrease the military presence and deescalate the situation in Donbas.”

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