Russia defence minister orders troops away from Ukraine border-report

MOSCOW Tue May 20, 2014 12:49am EDT

MOSCOW May 20 (Reuters) - Russia's defence minister has told troops to return to their permanent bases after military exercises near the border with Ukraine, fulfilling an order from President Vladimir Putin, Interfax news agency reported on Tuesday.

The Kremlin announced on Monday that Putin had ordered Russian forces near Ukraine back to their bases, but NATO and the United States said they saw no sign of a pullback. Moscow has failed to carry out such promises before.

The Defence Ministry said the troops, which were involved in military exercises in the regions of Rostov, Belgorod and Bryansk, were ordered to withdraw, according to the report.

A defence ministry spokesman declined immediate comment.

Moscow has massed tens of thousands of troops near the border regions where pro-Russian separatists have declared independent states, and Kiev and its Western allies fear they could be used to invade in support of the rebels. (Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin, editing by Elizabeth Piper)

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