The European Union intends to “closely monitor” the withdrawal of Russian troops from the southern borders after maneuvering there. This was stated by the official representative of the EU Foreign Policy Service, Peter Stano.
“We took note of the statement made yesterday by Defense Minister [Sergei] Shoigu about the intentions to withdraw [Russian] troops [from the southern borders], as well as about further movements of Russian troops and military equipment near the Ukrainian border,” he said. On Thursday, April 22, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced the end of the exercises in the south of Russia, including in the Crimea. The troops of the Southern and Western military Districts began to return to their permanent locations on April 23.
Since the end of March, Kyiv and Western countries have announced the pull-in of Russian troops to the western borders. According to Ukraine, Russia has pulled more than 100 thousand soldiers to the southern borders; the same figures were given by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Affairs Josep Borrell. The President of Ukraine called what is happening a “muscle game” on the part of Russia, while the United States considered Moscow’s actions a “provocation.” The EU has repeatedly called on Russia to withdraw its troops. “The situation on the Ukrainian border related to the deployment of Russian troops < … > is a very dangerous situation; we call on Russia to withdraw its troops from the border with Ukraine,” Borrell addressed Russia. The Kremlin explained that the country moves troops on its territory at its own discretion.
The European Union has repeatedly called on Russia to take steps to de-escalate and reduce tensions on the borders with Ukraine, Peter Stano said. “It is important for the EU to understand how the situation is “on the ground.” We will closely monitor the withdrawal of Russian troops and military equipment that were concentrated near the borders of Ukraine and in the Crimea,” he said. Such a large-scale redeployment of military forces, undertaken without prior notice and not in accordance with Russia’s international obligations, leads to an increase in tension and undermining and destabilizing the security situation, the EU Foreign Policy service complained. “We call on Russia to act within the framework of its international obligations. In particular, we call on Russia to comply with the OSCE principles and rules that it has signed up to and which relate to the transparency of military movements, ” Stano said, adding that Moscow should adhere to the procedures set out in Section III of the Vienna Document. The European Union also called on Russia to reconsider the decision to close part of the Black Sea near Crimea.
The EU stressed that implementing the Minsk Agreements remains the only way to achieve a sustainable, peaceful solution to the conflict in Ukraine. “We continue to support the efforts made within the Normandy format for the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements,” Stano said. Ukrainian leader Vladimir Zelensky welcomed Shoigu’s statement on the withdrawal of troops and noted reducing tension on the border. The US indicated that it continues to monitor the situation. NATO called Shoigu’s decision to complete the maneuvers in the Crimea timely.