More than 10,000 Russian military personnel have returned to their bases after a month-long exercise in southern Russia near the volatile Ukrainian border, Moscow said Saturday.
According to a statement by the Russian Defense Ministry the “combat training” maneuvers took place on several military grounds in the Russian regions of Volgograd, Rostov, Krasnodar, and annexed Crimea, areas in close proximity to Ukraine.
The ministry said that exercises were also held in Russian territories further away from the Ukrainian border, in the regions of Stavoropol, Astrakhan, and the North Caucasus, as well as in Armenia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The Russian army did not specify to which bases these troops were redeployed according to Belga news agency. “In order to ensure a high state of alert during the holiday season at military sites in the Southern Military District, guard units, reinforcements and forces will be assigned to deal with possible emergency situations.”
For more than a month, Russia has been accused by the West of massing close to a hundred thousand soldiers near the Ukrainian border, in preparation for a possible military attack against Ukraine. Moscow denies any such intentions and says it is threatened by “provocations” from Kiev and Nato, and demands that the alliance pledge not to expand into the former USSR.
These demands are to be addressed at Russian-American talks in January. Relations between the US and Russia are tense since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and the start of a war between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists in the east.
In an interview Friday with AFP, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security Council, Oleksiy Danilov, played down the risk of an imminent escalation. According to him, the number of Russian troops around Ukraine has only slightly increased from 93,000 in October to about 104,000.