The United States says there is “no evidence” that Russia has pulled out the tens of thousands of troops deployed near the border with Ukraine.
On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow withdrew soldiers from the Ukraine border.
“We’re always being told that our forces on the Ukrainian border are a concern. We have withdrawn them. Today they are not on the Ukrainian border, they are in places where they conduct their regular tasks on training grounds,” Putin said.
Later in the day, White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said that such a move would be “welcome”, but it has not yet materialized.
“We would certainly welcome a meaningful and transparent withdrawal of Russian military forces, and that is something we have sought for some time,” Earnest said.
“I will say that to date there has been no evidence that such a withdrawal has taken place,” he added.
According to reports, the US is planning to conduct military maneuvers in the next few weeks in Russia’s backyard as tensions between the two countries escalate over Ukraine.
The drills are expected to take place in Poland and Estonia, but other locations in Eastern Europe are also being considered.
At least 600 US soldiers already arrived in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland over a past couple of weeks to participate in a series of military drills throughout the year, according to the US Department of Defense.
Meanwhile, four British fighter jets landed in Siauliai airbase in northern Lithuania last week, the first of 12 fighters scheduled to be deployed in the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
The Western military build-up at Russia’s doorstep has raised concerns of a direct confrontation between the NATO military alliance and Moscow over Ukraine.
Last week, Russia began extensive military maneuvers near its border with Ukraine, saying the escalation of violence in eastern Ukraine and the militarization of the region by the US and its allies forced it to react.