Russia’s claim that it is withdrawing troops from the border with Ukraine is “false,” according to a senior United States official on Feb. 16.
“Yesterday, the Russian government said it was withdrawing troops from Ukraine. They received a lot of attention for that claim, both here and around the world. But we now know it was false,” the official told reporters on the condition of anonymity.
“Every indication we have now is they mean only to publicly offer to talk and make claims about de-escalation while privately mobilizing for war,” the official further said.
The official also said that Russia could launch a “false pretext” to justify an invasion of Ukraine “at any moment.”
The official added that an additional 7,000 Russian troops have arrived at the border in recent days.
The official did not provide details or evidence for the claim. However, satellite imagery and open-source intelligence showed a continued Russian military buildup at the Ukrainian border in recent days.
Hours earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told BBC News that they “don’t see any troop withdrawal yet. We just heard about it.”
Russian Defense Ministry earlier said that it was pulling back its forces after exercises near Ukraine and published a video that appeared to show tanks leaving Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Russia has repeatedly denied claims that it is planning to invade Ukraine, despite amassing over 100,000 troops at the Ukrainian border.
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