WASHINGTON, May 23, 2014 - A small number of Russian troops have moved away from the southern and eastern borders of Ukraine, but thousands more remain in place, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said here today.
"We have seen continued activity of preparations for departure of some units, not all," Kirby said at a Pentagon briefing. "We have seen the movement of some units, not all."
The admiral said it is too soon to say if this is the wholesale withdrawal that Russian President Vladimir Putin announced for the third time. "It's our expectation and hope that that movement is away from the border," the admiral said. "I can tell you that on a small scale we have actually seen the movement of some units away from the border region, apparently back to what we would consider garrison, their home base."
The remaining Russian troops are enough to continue to intimidate Ukraine. Those troops "are escalating the tension there in Ukraine, and we continue to call for the removal of all those troops," Kirby said.
Nations around the world have urged Putin to de-escalate and move the troops from the border. The Russian president has said he ordered the troops away from the border three times now. This is the first time there has been any movement.
As to how long it would take the Russian units to move back to garrison, Kirby could not say.
"I can tell you they got there in a hurry," he said. "So, it's certainly our expectation that this order to withdraw will be followed with some sense of alacrity. That's what we would like to see."
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