NATO: No sign of Russian ‘de-escalation on the ground’ in Ukraine crisis

NATO said Tuesday it has not seen “any de-escalation on the ground” from Russian forces near Ukraine, despite earlier claims from Moscow that some troops taking part in military exercises were pulling back.

“So far we have not seen any de-escalation on the ground, not any signs of reduced Russian military presence on the borders of Ukraine,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a press conference at alliance headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday. “We will continue to monitor and follow closely what Russia is doing,” he added.

Moscow signaled Monday that some military exercises were coming to an end. And on Tuesday, the Russian Defense Ministry said some units had “already begun loading onto rail and road transport and will begin moving to their military garrisons today.”

But Stoltenberg cautioned that even if Russia withdrew troops, it would also have to pull back heavy equipment in order to amount to a real de-escalation.

“What we have seen on the ground, since last spring, is that they are moving forces around,” Stoltenberg said, noting that such movements had not been accompanied by the withdrawal of equipment.

“The movement of forces does not represent real de-escalation,” Stoltenberg said.

However, he also said he saw some 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.

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