Russia's defence ministry indicated on Tuesday that some units of the Western and Southern command - which are deployed in the Ukraine border region - are being withdrawn after training exercises. While large-scale drills will continue, some units have 'completed their tasks' and are now headed home, a spokesman said.
The announcement is the strongest indication yet that Russia might be trying to de-escalate the military standoff, but it was far from clear whether the threat of war had passed.
The announcement came a day after Russia's foreign minister indicated the country was ready to keep talking about the security grievances that led to the Ukraine crisis — changing the tenor after weeks of rising tensions.
Earlier, Ukraine’s president, too, hinted at a major concession to the Russians, suggesting that his country might abandon the plans to join NATO. The comment came just as Russia’s top diplomat said that the possibilities to reach a diplomatic resolution to the crisis were “far from exhausted.” Observers said such a concession may be the pretext that Russia needs to backtrack.
But the message was at odds with warnings emanating out of Washington overnight that forces are actually being moved closer to the border and into 'attack positions'.
US intelligence continues to insist that Putin is likely to give the order to invade this week, raising the prospect that any troop 'withdrawal' could be another of Putin's deceptions designed to disguise an attack.
Western officials have expressed fears that the window for diplomacy may be closing after a phone call between President Biden and President Vladimir Putin of Russia over the weekend resulted in “no fundamental change in the dynamic,” according to the White House.
INDIANS TOLD TO RETURN: The Ukraine crisis is worsening. The Indian embassy in Kyiv on Tuesday advised Indians, especially students, to leave temporarily and asked them to avoid all non-essential travel to and within Ukraine.
The advisory came in the wake of the looming threat of a possible Russian invasion. It is primarily intended for Indian students whose stay is not essential.
"Indian nationals are requested to keep the embassy informed about the status of their presence in Ukraine to enable the embassy to reach them where required.
The United States said on Monday it will close its embassy in Ukraine and move all remaining staffers there to a city near the Polish border as invasion fears intensify. It also repeated warnings to private American citizens in Ukraine to leave immediately.