NATO said on Tuesday it had seen “no de-escalation on the ground” of Russian forces near Ukraine, despite earlier claims from Moscow that some troops participating in military exercises were withdrawing.
“So far we have seen no de-escalation on the ground, no signs of a reduction in the Russian military presence on Ukraine’s borders,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday during a briefing. a press conference at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels. “We will continue to closely monitor and follow what Russia is doing,” he added.
Moscow signaled on Monday that some military exercises were coming to an end. And on Tuesday, the Russian Defense Ministry said some units had “already started loading on rail and road transport and will start moving to their military garrisons today.”
But Stoltenberg warned that even if Russia withdrew its troops, it would also have to withdraw heavy equipment to achieve real de-escalation.
“What we’ve seen on the ground, since last spring, is that they’re moving forces,” Stoltenberg said, noting that such moves haven’t been accompanied by the removal of equipment.
“The movement of forces does not represent true de-escalation,” Stoltenberg said.
However, he also said he saw grounds for “cautious optimism” in signals from Moscow that it was willing to pursue diplomacy.
His comments came as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz met Russian President Vladimir Putin in the latest diplomatic effort to defuse the crisis.