Russia Claims Some Troops Have Been Withdrawn From Crimea

February 16, 2022 Topic: Russia-Ukraine Crisis Region: Europe Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: Russian MilitaryNATOCrimeaRussia-Ukraine CrisisRussia

Russia Claims Some Troops Have Been Withdrawn From Crimea

NATO officials remain cautious about the supposed de-escalation. 

As many as 100,000 Russian troops have been positioned near the border of Ukraine, and upwards of 30,000 are currently engaged in drills in Belarus. Western officials have warned that a Russian invasion of its neighbor could begin at any moment.

However, Moscow announced on Tuesday that some of the deployed units are now returning to their bases following "scheduled drills" in Crimea.

"The units of the Southern Military District that have completed accomplishing their tasks as part of scheduled tactical exercises at combined arms practice ranges on the Crimean Peninsula have begun returning to their permanent bases," the press office for the Russian Southern Military District said in a statement to TASS. "The personnel of battalion tactical groups have conducted marches to the areas of railway stations where operations to load combat equipment on special platforms have been organized."

According to the Russian state news outlet, Russian troops have also begun to prepare to transport "heavy tracked armor," including tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and self-propelled artillery guns back to the bases as well.

"The special trains will deliver the military hardware to the regions where the troops are permanently stationed, in particular, in Dagestan and North Ossetia. Upon arrival at their permanent bases, the troops will carry out maintenance of their equipment, the press office specified," TASS reported

Propaganda Victory?

Moscow has made quite the public show of its partial pullback. However, the key is that only "some units" may have returned to their bases.

In a video posted to the Russian Defense Ministry's website, spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said, "A series of combat readiness drills, including exercises, have been completed in accordance with the plan.”

While Konashenkov added that those units were leaving by rail and road, he also confirmed that other Russian military forces are still engaged in "a number of large-scale exercises that involve practically all military districts, fleets and the Airborne Forces."

The Russian Foreign Ministry has criticized the repeated warnings from Western leaders that a Russian attack on Ukraine was imminent. Russia has even slammed what it has consistently described as a U.S.-led disinformation campaign aimed at vilifying Russia, the Wall Street Journal reported.

"February 15, 2022 will go down in history as the day Western propaganda for war failed," Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry's spokeswoman, wrote on Facebook on Tuesday. "Humiliated and destroyed without a single shot being fired."

NATO and British officials also stressed on Tuesday afternoon that they had not yet seen any clear signs that Russia is looking to de-escalate.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also told reporters on Tuesday that the Western alliance had still not seen any actual signs of a reduced Russian military presence on the Ukrainian border or "any signs of de-escalation on the ground."

"Russia has amassed a fighting force in and around Ukraine, unprecedented since the Cold War," Stoltenberg emphasized. "Everything is now in place for a new attack."

If anything, units could simply be rotated out while new, fresher forces are sent to the border.

Staying Tough on Russia

Even as Russia has pulled some of its forces back, Western officials are warning that now is not the time to let the guard down on Moscow. British prime minister Boris Johnson said that Russia would need to do more to de-escalate.

"You've got more battalion tactical groups actually being brought closer to the border with Ukraine," Johnson explained, adding that Moscow has "huge preparation[s] ready to go [into Ukraine] at virtually any moment.” Johnson noted that Russia’s recent actions have sent “mixed signals.”

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has called for calm, saying on Monday that "today they are scaring Ukraine with a great war and, once again, are setting the date for a military invasion, but our state is stronger than ever."

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on

Image: Reuters.