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ukraine: Some Russian forces near Ukraine returning to bases: Moscow

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Russia said Tuesday that some forces deployed near Ukraine were beginning to return to their bases, after a build-up of Moscow’s army around Ukrainian borders spurred fears of an invasion.

“Units of the Southern and Western military districts, having completed their tasks, have already begun loading onto rail and road transport and today they will begin moving to their military garrisons,” a defence ministry spokesman said.

The comments carried by Russian news agencies come ahead a scheduled meeting between German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Russian President Vladimir Putin to defuse tensions over Ukraine.

A build-up of some 100,000 Russian troops around the ex-Soviet country spurred European leaders and Washington to warn of sweeping economic penalties if Russia escalates an ongoing separatist conflict in Ukraine by sending in troops.

Tensions have been exacerbated by Russian military drills, including near Ukraine and in Belarus, where the United States says some 30,000 troops are participating in exercises scheduled to run until February 20.

Meeting with Putin earlier this week, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said some of the Russian war games would soon be drawing to a close.

Ukraine’s defence minister meanwhile said Monday he had spoken with his Belarusian counterpart and received assurances there was no threat to Kyiv from Belarusian territory.

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