United States has warned that Russia has added 7,000 troops near Ukraine's borders even as Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that forces were being pulled back from the region. Russia has massed more than 150,000 troops east, north and south of Ukraine, according to Western estimates.
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden promised that they would continue to give diplomacy 'every chance', but doubted Moscow's intentions. Biden also insisted that the United States and its allies would not sacrifice basic principles respecting Ukraine sovereignty.
While on one side Russia had increased its force posture near Ukraine by 7,000 troops, with some arriving as recently as Wednesday, Russian Defense Ministry video showed a trainload of armored vehicles moving across a bridge away from Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
It also announced that more tank units were being loaded on trains to move back to their permanent bases after training exercises.
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NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance 'lso had not seen 'any withdrawal of Russian forces', as did multiple European governments. Before chairing a NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels, he said, "If they really start to withdraw forces, that’s something we will welcome, but that remains to be seen."
In the meantime, the alliance is examining this week how and when to rapidly dispatch troops and equipment to countries closest to Russia and the Black Sea region should Moscow order an invasion. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has also dismissed the Russian withdrawal claims.
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On Wednesday, Ukrainians of all ages waved flags in the streets and from apartment windows across the country. Hundreds unfolded a 200-meter (650-foot) flag at Kyiv's Olympic Stadium, while another was draped in the center of a shopping mall in the capital.
In the government-controlled part of Ukraine's eastern region of Luhansk, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian troops since 2014, residents stretched another huge flag across a street.