Earlier today, a Pentagon spokesperson confirmed that a majority of the Russian forces, previously stationed at the Ukrainian border, are pulling back and returning to their home bases. “I can confirm that at least two thirds of the Russian forces have repositioned off the border and we are continuing to monitor,” Pentagon spokesperson Colonel Steve Warren told several reporters Friday.
This is one of the first signs of an ending to tensions between Russia and Ukraine after the Crimean crisis, in which the two countries had disputes over control of the Crimean Peninsula. Approximately 40,000 Russian forces were posted along the Ukraine border in response to the crisis, but they are now being withdrawn.
“The remaining forces appear to be packing up and preparing to depart the border as well. We welcome this. That said, it doesn’t change the fact that the Russians for the last several months have radically destabilized the situation in Ukraine. They still maintain a significant force presence in Crimea and we continue to call on them to work to stabilize Ukraine, to prevent militants from flowing into Ukraine and to help bring a peaceful resolution,” Colonel Warren stated.
While the U.S. has not been actively involved in the tensions, they are monitoring the situation very closely. Presidential spokesperson Jay Carney told the press, “We are disturbed by the ongoing violence in eastern Ukraine.” Just yesterday, a military helicopter was brought down by Russian rebels, leading 15 dead. Ukraine’s President-elect Petro Poroshenko swore vengeance on those responsible for downing the helicopter.
The news of Russia’s retreat from Ukraine has been beneficial in easing tensions between the two countries, and the U.S. is relieved too. “They are not where they need to be and won’t be until all of their troops that they positioned along that border a couple of months ago are gone,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said.
While tensions may be easing between Russia and Ukraine, there is still much to be done. Four observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe were recently detained in the
Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine. Jay Carney and Jen Psaki are both demanding that the observers be released immediately. The U.S. has also urged Russia to withdraw the rest of the troops near Ukraine in order to relieve tension.
Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have been high ever since the Crimean crisis in February, but they are starting to cool down. The withdrawal of Russian troops from the Ukraine border has been instrumental in this easing of tensions.
[Image via Associated Press]