Putin briefs Merkel on Ukraine border troop withdrawal: Berlin

31st March 2014, Comments 0 comments

Russian President Vladimir Putin informed German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday about the partial withdrawal of troops he ordered from a region on the border with Ukraine, her office said.

"Moreover the two discussed further possible steps to stabilise the situation in Ukraine and Transdniestr," Moldova's largely Russian-speaking breakaway region, Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement.

"They agreed to stay in close contact."

The Russian defence ministry on Monday said it was pulling back a battalion from a region on the border with Ukraine but it was not clear if this was linked to a wider troop movement to defuse tensions.

A battalion from the central military district's 15th motorised infantry brigade finished manoeuvres at the Kadamovsky range in the Rostov region bordering Ukraine and would now return to its home region of Samara on the Volga, the defence ministry said in a statement to Russian news agencies.

Ukraine and the United States have accused Russia of massing tens of thousands of troops on the eastern Ukrainian border.

A Ukrainian defence ministry official had told AFP in Kiev earlier Monday that Russian forces have began a gradual withdrawal from the Ukrainian border.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier welcomed the developments, saying they "seem to be a small sign that the situation is becoming less tense".

© 2014 AFP

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