Russia still has about 100,000 soldiers deployed near its western border with Ukraine and in annexed Crimea despite Moscow announcing a publicised military pullback last month, head of Ukraine’s state security service, Ivan Bakanov, said.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday accused Russia of having failed to fully withdraw military hardware and troops from the border areas following the two countries’ standoff.
Zelenskyy said Russia had withdrawn only about 3,500 of the tens of thousands of troops deployed to the Crimean Peninsula.
Russia’s military build-up took place against the backdrop of an uptick in fighting in Ukraine’s conflict-stricken eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, where government forces have battled Russian-backed separatist forces since the rebels seized a swath of territory there in April 2014.
As part of Moscow’s manoeuvres, Russian military units also conducted exercises in the Black Sea region of Crimea, which was seized from Kyiv in March 2014.
Russia did not publicly declare the number of soldiers it had moved to the border areas, but the European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell in mid-April put the figure at more than 100,000.
NATO and the United States said the build-up was Russia’s largest since it undertook the annexation of Crimea.
Moscow defended the troop movements, saying they were part of a training exercise called in response to activity by NATO and Ukraine. After weeks of simmering tensions, it ordered a withdrawal of some troops beginning April 23.