Feb 16, 2022 - World

NATO sees no signs of Russia's troop withdrawal near Ukraine

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaking in Brussels on Feb. 16.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaking in Brussels on Feb. 16. Photo: Valeria Mongelli/Bloomberg via Getty Images

NATO has not seen signs of Russian troops pulling back near Ukraine, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday, after Moscow had announced it was returning some troops and weapons to their permanent bases.

Why it matters: Stoltenberg said that Russia is instead continuing its military buildup near Ukraine's border, echoing similar skepticism conveyed by President Biden on Tuesday.

  • Over the last several months, Moscow has positioned more than 150,000 troops and military vehicles and equipment near Ukraine's borders.

What they're saying: “At the moment, we have not seen any withdrawal of Russian forces,” Stoltenberg said in Brussels.

  • "We have not seen any de-escalation on the ground. On the contrary, it appears that Russia continues their military buildup," he added.
  • "We are ready to sit down and discuss with them, but at the same time, we are prepared for the worst."

Russia announced a "partial withdrawal" of troops from near Ukraine's border, as well as a desire to re-enter security negotiations with the U.S. and NATO, though it did not disclose how many troops or weapons were being withdrawn.

The big picture: Meanwhile, Russia's parliament on Tuesday asked President Putin to recognize the Moscow-backed Ukrainian separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent, a move that would deal a major blow to peace-keeping efforts in eastern Ukraine.

  • "Enactment of this resolution would further undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity" and "constitute a gross violation of international law," U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken said in a statement.
  • He added that the move would also "call into further question Russia’s stated commitment to continue to engage in diplomacy to achieve a peaceful resolution of this crisis, and necessitate a swift and firm response from the United States in full coordination with our Allies and partners."

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