As the world powers continued their efforts to thwart Russian aggression in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin has ordered Russian troops embarked in military exercise on Ukrainian border to return to their bases, reports said Tuesday.
Russian news agencies quoted Presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov as saying that the Russian troops were told to pull back.
Tens of thousands of soldiers were engaged in military exercise on the Ukrainian border, escalating fears that Russia was planning to invade the pro-Russian parts in eastern Ukraine.
However, it is not clear yet if Putin’s call to withdraw troops was a step towards the de-escalation of the crisis, wanted by the West.
Because, in spite of the order for the troops withdrawal from the border, Russian troops are locked in a stand-off with Ukrainian forces at the Belbek base near Sevastapol in Crimea.
By now, over 16000 Russian troops are stationed in Ukraine’s Crimea, Ukraine’s interim government said.
Earlier US had said that Russia had gained fully operation control over Crimea, the autonomous Black Sea peninsula inhabited mostly by Russian-speaking people.
The crucial move came after Russia had been facing unanimous opposition by the major world powers like the US, the UK, the European Nation and its G8 partners.
The G8 nations, who addressed the group as G7 (isolating Russia) also suspended the preparatory talks being held ahead of Sochi Summit in June, which might not happen as scheduled, said John Kerry.
Also, the US Defence Department on late Monday declared the suspension of all military engagements with Russian military in wake of Moscow’s military overtures in Ukraine.
The US also sought to threaten a host of economic sanctions against Moscow, which reflected clearly in the sharp decline of the Russian currency Rouble yesterday.
The diplomatic push by the world powers came as Russia continued to build-up military strength in Crimea, with Russian troops occupying key bases and naval installations.
Ukraine’s acting president Oleksandr Turchynov regretted that Russia’s military presence in Crimea was thickening.
Ukraine also accused Russian forces of warning the Ukrainian troops in Crimea to surrender by 03:00 GMT. However, Russia’s Black Sea fleet rubbished reports that it had given Ukrainian forces in Crimea an ultimatum to surrender by Tuesday dawn, Interfax news agency said.
On Monday, Russian envoy to UN, Vitaliy Churkin told a UN Security Council meeting that ousted Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovych had requested Moscow for military intervention in Ukraine to “restore law and order””.
Churkin also produced a letter signed by Yanukovych to buttress his point.
But the Russian envoy’s statement was met with widespread rejection by the Western leaders, who termed Russia’s claims as groundless.
US Secretary of State John Kerry meanwhile is on his way to Kiev to show US support to Ukraine against Russian aggression.