US watching Ukraine border but ‘looking for action’ after Russia withdrawal plans

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The United States said Thursday that it had seen reports of Russia’s intent to withdraw troops from the Ukrainian border, but Washington is “looking for action.”

“We’ve heard the announcement, and to the best of our knowledge, it is just that. We’ll be looking for follow-through when it comes to what the Russians actually do,” State Department Spokesman Ned Price said.

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Despite Moscow’s claims that its troops are on the border for military drills, the Russian Defense Minister issued an order on Thursday to withdraw the troops by May 1.

Ukraine and Russia have been locked in a dispute over Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. At least 30 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed this year, and it is believed that the number of Russian troops stationed near the border is more than those deployed in 2014.

Washington and Europe have criticized Russia’s troop deployment and threatened sanctions over its actions.

Asked for comment on the announcement, the State Department official said the US was “closely watching.”

“We have been clear in our engagement with the Russian government that it needs to refrain from escalatory actions … and immediately cease all its aggressive activity in and around Ukraine, including its recent military buildup in occupied Crimea, and on Ukraine’s border and its attention to block specific vessels in parts of the Black Sea,” Price said told reporters.

Price reiterated US support for Ukraine but refused to answer questions over the possibility of increased military aid to Kiev. “It’s something we are always evaluating,” he said.

Read more: Russian defense minister arrives in annexed Crimea to oversee military drills

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