President Putin said Russia does not seek a war, refers to the Donbass conflict as "genocide"
On Tuesday, Russia announced some of its troops were returning to base following manoeuvres near Ukraine, mocking Western concerns about an impending invasion
On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that Russia does not desire a war in Europe, but that the situation in east Ukraine's breakaway areas is "genocide" and that the conflict there should be resolved through the Minsk peace process.
Putin stated at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz that Russia had chosen to partially withdraw soldiers from near Ukraine and that there was still room for additional negotiations with the West on Moscow's security demands.
Putin, on the other hand, stated that Russia's demands had received no constructive answer.
Meanwhile, Russia announced on Tuesday that some of its troops were returning to base following manoeuvres near Ukraine, mocking Western predictions of an impending invasion, but NATO said it had yet to see any evidence of a de-escalation that may prevent a military conflict.
After a build-up of about 130,000 Russian troops to the north, east, and south of Ukraine sparked one of the greatest crises in ties with the West since the Cold War, Russia did not indicate how many units were being evacuated or how far they were being withdrawn.
After meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the evacuation of some Russian troops was a positive indication.
Others were more circumspect. "The intelligence that we're getting today is still not encouraging," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, while Ukraine warned the reported pullout had to be seen to be trusted.
"If we observe a pullback, we will believe in a de-escalation," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba was reported as saying by Interfax Ukraine.
NATO's top commander praised Russia's recent hints that it may be seeking a diplomatic solution, but encouraged Moscow to show its willingness to act.
"There are signs from Moscow that diplomacy should continue. This gives grounds for cautious optimism. But so far we have not seen any sign of de-escalation on the ground from the Russian side," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters.
He claimed that Russia frequently left military equipment behind after exercises, allowing forces to regroup. Putin mentioned the troop movements only briefly during a joint press conference with Scholz, but did not go into detail.
Russia has long rejected plans to invade Ukraine, claiming that it is free to deploy soldiers wherever it wants on its own soil. It has been pressuring the West to provide a package of security guarantees, including a commitment that Ukraine will never join NATO.
Putin stated to reporters. Russia was unconvinced by claims that the former Soviet republic was not ready to join any time soon, and demanded that the issue be rectified immediately.
"As for war in Europe...about whether we want it or not? Of course not. That is why we put forward proposals for a negotiation process, the result of which should be an agreement on ensuring equal security for everyone, including our country," he said.
Scholz said the diplomatic possibilities were far from exhausted. "For us Germans but also Europeans, sustainable security can only be reached .. with Russia. Therefore it should be possible to find a solution. No matter how difficult and serious the situation seems to be, I refuse to say it is hopeless," he said.
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