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Putin to withdraw troops from Ukraine border, Russia defense chief says

The announcement comes amid heightened speculation that Russia soon will invade Ukraine.

Updated: April 22, 2021 - 11:08am

Russia will withdraw its troops from the border with Ukraine beginning Friday, the country's military chief said.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced the move Thursday while inspecting a military exercise in Crimea, according to the government news agency, Tass.

Shoigu directed military commanders "to plan in detail the return of troops to the points of permanent deployment," Tass reported. 

"I believe that the surprise inspection’s goals have been achieved in full," Shoigu said. "The troops demonstrated ability to reliably defend the country. Therefore, I have made a decision to complete the inspection measures in the Southern and Western Military Districts," the defense chief said, adding that he had ordered "the General Staff, the commanders of the military districts’ troops and the airborne forces to plan and start returning the troops to their permanent stations from April 23," and to "carry out a detailed analysis and sum up the results of the troops’ surprise inspection."

The announcement follows reports that Russia has positioned roughly 100,000 troops on the border, and amid heightened speculation that Russia soon will invade Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday threatened unnamed aggressors against crossing a vague "red line."

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