Europe

No evidence of Russian troops pulling back: NATO

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The North Atlantic Treaty Organization says there is no indication that Russia has pulled back its troops from the border with Ukraine.

“We have no indication of a change in the position of military forces along the Ukraine border,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Wednesday.

The Western military alliance also said that there were currently about 40,000 Russian troops stationed across Russia’s border with Ukraine.

Meanwhile, White House deputy spokesman Josh Earnest echoed the NATO chief’s remarks, saying, “to date, there’s been no evidence that such a withdrawal has taken place.”

Earnest added that Washington would “certainly welcome a meaningful and transparent withdrawal.”

Earlier in the day, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow has pulled its troops from Ukraine’s border, saying, “We’re always being told that our forces on the Ukrainian border are a concern. We have withdrawn them.”

Ukraine’s acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk reacted to Putin’s remarks about postponing Ukraine’s referendum on autonomy, saying it was “hot air”.

Putin had appealed to pro-Russian protesters in Ukraine’s eastern regions to postpone the May 11 referendum on autonomy.

Ukraine has also rejected the referendum labeling it as illegal.

The Russian president also called on Ukraine’s military to halt all operations against pro-Russian protesters, saying an end to all violence is key to the scheduled May 25 presidential election in Ukraine.

Nearly 90 people were killed during the Kiev government’s military operations around the flashpoint city of Slavyansk and the southern port city of Odessa last week.

Ukraine’s acting government re-launched its military operation on April 23 in the eastern and southern regions in a bid to root out the pro-Russia demonstrations.

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