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Russia says some troops leaving Ukraine border area

Mar. 31, 2014 - 01:31PM   |  
UKRAINE-RUSSIA-POLITICS-CRISIS-FILES
The Russian Defense Ministry said Monday that an infantry battalion is withdrawing from the region near the border with Ukraine where U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said tens of thousands of reinforcement troops have created a climate of intimidation. (Sergei Supinsky / AFP via Getty Images)
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The Russian Defense Ministry said Monday that an infantry battalion is withdrawing from the region near the border with Ukraine where U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said tens of thousands of reinforcement troops have created a climate of intimidation.

The Russian ITAR-Tass news agency reports says the battalion has "completed its field exercises" in the Rostov area of southern Russia and will return to its permanent deployment in the Samara region.

U.S. officials last week said Russia has brought in as many as 40,000 reinforcement troops to the border.

Kerry said on Sunday that the Russian troop buildup had created a climate of fear and intimidation in Ukraine.

His comments followed a meeting Sunday night in Paris with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov aimed at reducing tension over Ukraine.

Kerry described his talks with the Russian diplomat as "a frank conversation" about Russia's moves in Crimea and the large gathering of troops along the border with Ukraine that raised fears of a Russian invasion.

"I made clear the United States still considers the Russian actions to be illegal and illegitimate," Kerry said.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told Fox News on Saturday there remained "a huge possibility that Russia could invade and seize Ukrainian territory."

Lavrov, in a separate interview with Russian-controlled TV on Saturday, denied that Moscow had plans to invade Ukraine.

"We have absolutely no intention of, or interest in, crossing Ukraine's borders," Lavrov said.

The United States and the European Union have placed increasingly stiffer economic sanctions on Russia following its military intervention in the Crimea region and subsequent annexation of the chiefly Russian-speaking area.

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