Some troops in Russia’s military districts adjacent to Ukraine return to their bases in a move that could de-escalate tensions.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrived in Moscow on Tuesday to meet President Vladimir Putin in a high stakes mission to avert war, saying he will hammer home the message from the West that they are open to dialogue about Russia’s security concerns but will impose sanctions if it invades Ukraine.
Meanwhile, some troops in Russia’s military districts adjacent to Ukraine returned to their bases after completing drills, Russia’s defence ministry was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying, a move that could de-escalate frictions between Moscow and the West.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is also due to visit Belgium – where he’ll meet NATO allies – Lithuania and Poland, a day after Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov held out the hope for diplomacy after urging Putin to continue talks.
Amid frantic diplomacy to try and avert conflict in Ukraine, the United States extended a $1 billion sovereign loan guarantee to Ukraine, as the build-up of Russian troops at the country’s borders weighs on its economy.
Russia confirms planned pullback of some troops after drills:
Russia’s Southern military district said that its forces have started withdrawing from Crimea and returning to their bases after completing drills on the peninsula which Russia seized from Ukraine, Interfax reported.
Interfax cited the district command as saying that some of the troops were moving to bases in Russia’s southern regions of Dagestan and North Ossetia. Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
Norway adds up to 60 troops to NATO force in Lithuania
Norway will increase its contribution to NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence forces in Lithuania by between 50 and 60 troops due to the tense security situation in and around Ukraine, the Norwegian defence minister said.
US announces closure of its embassy in Ukraine
The US State Department announced it will close its embassy in Kyiv and move all remaining staffers there to a city near the Polish border.
The scene was calm outside the US Embassy in Ukraine after the announcement, despite fears of a potential Russian invasion intensifying.
UK’s Truss says full scale removal of Russian troops needed
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said a full scale removal of Russian troops from the border with Ukraine was needed after a report that some units were returning to their bases.
Asked about the Interfax report, Truss told LBC Radio she had not seen it and would need to see more details, but added: “The Russians have claimed that they have no plans for an invasion, but we will need to see a full scale removal of troops to show that is true.”
EU says ready to discuss Russian security concerns
The European Union is ready to discuss Russia’s security concerns, the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said, as tensions between Russia and Ukraine continue to heighten.
“In order to fulfill the concerns of everybody, the only way is speaking on the table and discuss,” Borrell told BBC Radio 4. “If there is a war between Russia and Ukraine, Nordstream 2 would not become operational”, he added.