Russia said on Wednesday that troops deployed for exercises near the Ukrainian border had now dismantled equipment and were moving to train stations and airfields for return to their permanent bases, but NATO said it saw no sign of a pullout.
The Kremlin said on Monday that President Vladimir Putin had told his defence chief to order troops to pull back from the frontier with Ukraine, where eastern regions have fallen largely under the control of pro-Russian rebels.
After spending a day dismantling field camps, packing and preparing military vehicles, forces in the Rostov, Belgorod and Bryansk provinces “have begun to move toward train stations and airfields”, the Defence Ministry said in a statement.
It said troops were returning to their permanent bases, but did not specify how many troops were leaving the border provinces and made no mention of two other provinces that border eastern Ukraine.
A withdrawal, cooling Western fears of a any immediate Russian intervention, could ease tension before Sunday’s presidential election in Ukraine. The United States and EU hope the vote will strengthen the central government in Kiev, which is fighting pro-Moscow separatists in the east.