World, Europe

Berlin calls on Russia to withdraw from Ukraine border

‘It is actions that would lead to real withdrawal that would mean really significant de-escalation on site,’ official says

Oliver Towfigh Nia   | 23.04.2021
Berlin calls on Russia to withdraw from Ukraine border

BERLIN

Germany on Friday said it had seen reports of Russia's intent to pull out troops from the Ukrainian border, and added it is looking for a “real withdrawal.”

“We have taken note of the announcement by the Russian Defense Minister," said German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr at a press briefing in the capital Berlin.

“It is actions that would lead to a real withdrawal that would mean really significant de-escalation on the ground. That is what you can really measure de-escalation by. Only when that happens,” she added.

In recent weeks, Russia has gathered combat-ready forces close to the Ukrainian border which is considered "the largest massing of Russian troops since the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014," according to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

On Thursday, the Russian Defense Minister said his country would withdraw the troops by May 1.

Ukraine has been plagued by conflict in its eastern regions since March 2014, following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.

Fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine has seen more than 13,000 people killed, according to the UN.

'Threat' to European security

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer again assessed the Russian troop relocation to the border with Ukraine as a provocation.

"Unfortunately, the Russian approach is not suitable for creating trust, but rather should obviously provoke reactions," the minister said.

Kramp-Karrenbauer caused a public stir last week for branding Russia a “direct and specific” threat to the European security.

Speaking at the conservative Konrad-Adenauer Foundation in the south German town of Koenigsbronn, Kramp-Karrenbauer said: "Russia's arms build-up and its warfare in the middle of Europe has created real threats."

“Anyone who points this out is not anti-Russian. Anyone who points this out is addressing an important political fact and taking active precautionary measures for our country and for Europe,” she added.

The defense minister accused Moscow, among other things, of stationing missiles "that can reach Germany without much warning."

"This happened in violation of the current arms control treaties and in secret," she said.

In 2018, Russia confirmed the stationing of Iskander missiles with a range of 500 kilometers (311 miles) in the Kaliningrad exclave located between Poland, Lithuania and the Baltic Sea after a long game of hide-and-seek.

At that time, this was seen as Moscow’s reaction to the deployment of NATO troops in the Baltic states.

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