NATO confirms Russian troops withdrawal

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iol pic wld  CORRECTION Ukraine AP A pro-Russian rebel fires his weapon during clashes with Ukrainian troops on the outskirts of Luhansk, Ukraine. Picture: Vadim Ghirda

Russia has withdrawn most of the about 40 000 troops it had massed on the Ukraine border and those remaining are preparing to pull out, a NATO military official said on Tuesday.

The official, who asked not to be named, said NATO continued to see Russian troop activity near the border but “the majority of troops have now pulled back.”

“A few thousand troops still remain in the vicinity but most of these units appear to be preparing to withdraw,” the official said.

NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen said last week that some two-thirds of the Russian force, estimated by NATO at about 40 000, had withdrawn.

Rasmussen on Tuesday called again for Moscow to withdraw all its forces on the border as a first step to de-escalating a crisis which is driving NATO to review its defence posture in Europe.

As the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War drags on with continued pro-Moscow rebel attacks in eastern Ukraine, NATO defence ministers were holding a two-day meeting in Brussels to discuss the long-term implications for European security and prepare recommendations for an alliance summit later this year in Britain.

Rasmussen said Russia's “irresponsible actions” meant NATO had to review its defence posture as Moscow had shown it was ready to re-draw borders by force, completely changing the entire European security picture. - AFP

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