Live: US and UK question Russia’s claims to withdraw troops from Ukraine

Russia said on Wednesday that military exercises in Moscow-annexed Crimea have ended and that soldiers would return to their garrisons, a day after it announced the first withdrawal of its forces from Ukraine’s borders. While US reports indicated that Russian forces may attack as early as February 16, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged citizens to celebrate “Day of Unity” on Wednesday. Follow France 24 for live updates.

9:40 a.m. Paris time: US and UK skeptical of Russian overtures, President Joe Biden says US officials have not verified Russia’s demand for troop withdrawal. He promised that the United States would give diplomacy “every chance,” but adopted a skeptical tone about Moscow’s intentions. “There are still two paths open,” Biden said in remarks at the White House. “But there should be no doubt: if Russia commits this violation by invading Ukraine, responsible nations around the world will not hesitate to respond. If we do not defend freedom where it is at stake today, we will surely pay a heavy price tomorrow.”

On Wednesday, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Britain had also announced that it had not yet seen any evidence that Russia was withdrawing its forces, and Wallace told Radio Times, “We have not seen any evidence yet of that withdrawal.” Wallace told the BBC: “The material observations we’re seeing show the opposite of some of the recent statements from the Kremlin.”

8:15 a.m. Paris time: Russia announces end of military exercises in Crimea, says troops will leave, Russia said on Wednesday that military exercises in Moscow-annexed Crimea have ended and soldiers were returning to their garrisons, a day after it announced its first withdrawal troops from the borders of Ukraine. .

“Units of the Southern Military District, after completing their participation in tactical exercises, are moving to their permanent deployment points,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement, while state television showed pictures of military units crossing a bridge linking the Russian-controlled peninsula. to the mainland.

7:40 a.m. Paris time: Ukraine’s defense minister sees ‘nothing unexpected’ Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on Wednesday that recent threat assessments contain ‘nothing unexpected’ and are consistent with previous views. He said in a televised statement that the Ukrainian armed forces are continuing nationwide military exercises, one of which will be attended by the military attache of Belarus.

Ukraine’s neighbor Kiev stressed the absence of a military threat from its territory.

Reznikov said he would take part in a “virtual meeting” of all NATO defense ministers scheduled for Thursday.

6:45 a.m. PARIS TIME: Ukraine celebrates ‘Day of Unity’ Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged citizens to celebrate ‘Day of Unity’ on Wednesday, February 16, the date he chose for what he hopes will be a patriotic influx after US reports suggested that Russian troops It can attack early in the day.

An intense diplomatic campaign is underway to avert the crisis that erupted when Russia deployed more than 100,000 troops to Ukraine’s borders, backed by fleet reinforcements, powerful artillery and missile systems.

But Zelensky responded sarcastically to the American warning, declaring Wednesday “Unity Day.” “Dangerous external and internal challenges have arisen that require responsibility, trust, and tangible actions from me and each of us,” he said. “But our state today is stronger than ever,” he said.

(France 24 with AFP)

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