Tue April 1, 2014
NATO Chief: No Sign Russian Troops Leaving Ukraine Border
A day after Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly promised that the Kremlin would withdraw some troops from near the border with Ukraine, the head of NATO says he's seen no movement as yet.
As we reported, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's office said on Monday that Putin had told her of the impending troop movement, which seemed designed to ratchet down tensions in the region after Russia's annexation of Crimea last month.
"Unfortunately, I cannot confirm that Russia is withdrawing its troops," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters. "This is not what we're seeing."
Rasmussen's comments, made in Brussels at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers, came as Merkel herself said Tuesday that Putin's promise is only a start, in any case, and would not satisfy the West.
"It is clearly not the last step that needs to be taken because the troop concentration on the Ukrainian border is very high," Merkel told reporters during a news conference, according to Reuters.
Also on Tuesday, Russia's foreign ministry reiterated warnings to Kiev not to make any moves toward joining NATO, saying that past attempts to do so only "led to a freezing of Russian-Ukrainian political contacts, a headache between NATO and Russia and ... to a division in Ukrainian society," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.