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Russia says it's withdrawing troops from Ukraine border; Biden calls it false

Claiming that Russia doesn't want to invade Ukraine, Putin has been seeking diplomatic "resolution" and "guarantees" to end the Ukraine crisis; but how far what he says is convincing when he has moved battle-ready troops along the borders? Apparently his assertion does not make sense insofar as his covert mega plan is to re-establish the erstwhile Soviet Union. May be not by invasion, then what is the other modus operandi? If so why did he mass the troops? The former KGB secret agent has his card up his sleeve.

Putin forming an alliance with Chinese President Xi Jinping giving the Ukrainian crisis the dimension of a looming world war, and Pakistan too rushing to Beijing to put its neck on the block to form an axis, the US and a disinterested Europe got ready to counter an invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops that Biden confirmed would happen in a day on Wednesday. That was not to be. Instead, Putin ordered “to partially pull back troops” from the border, incidentally or otherwise, after meeting Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany on Tuesday. France and Germany, like the Russians, have also been stressing on negotiations to end the crisis, the latter with a view to buying time as Putin's master plan is in the works! Europe is divided, Ukraine's pro-West Zelensky is wavering and Biden doesn't see what's coming!

NEW DELHI, Feb 16: Russia has begun withdrawing troops from Ukraine border following President Vladimir Putin's announcement on Tuesday of a partial withdrawal soon after US President Joe Biden cautioned that the Kremlin would launch an invasion of its erstwhile Soviet republic on Wednesday, triggering a catastrophic world war. The Russian Defence Ministry has released a video showing the withdrawal. There were 130,000 Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders ready for an incursion.

The US has not confirmed any Russian troop withdrawal from Ukraine borders yet. However, according to reports, some forces were being withdrawn from Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014. The troops were moved back to bases in Dagestan and North Ossetia.

Playing cool, Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told reporters in the Capital of Kyiv, "We and our allies have managed to prevent Russia from any further escalation. It is already the middle of February, and you see that diplomacy is continuing to work." He, however, added that Russia's claims of a pullback need to be verified.

He later tweeted, "On Russian statements regarding withdrawal of some forces from the Ukrainian border. We in Ukraine have a rule: we don’t believe what we hear, we believe what we see. If a real withdrawal follows these statements, we will believe in the beginning of a real de-escalation."

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said still a potential attack by Russia cannot be ruled out. The reported pullout may not be taken as real deescalation. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson cautioned that Russia is sending "mixed signals." He said Russian forces are building hospitals for troops at the borders and that does not indicate de-escalation.

Before the troop pullout announcement, Putin had a meeting in Moscow with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday. On Monday Scholz met Ukraine's President Zelensky in Kyiv.

Meanwhile, pro-West Zelensky has developed cold feet. Apprehending a calamitous war, he has of late started giving indications that Ukraine will not seek NATO entry. It is speculated that the Russian troop withdrawal announcement was in response to Zelensky's statement, Russia's main demand for now being a Western guarantee against Ukraine being taken into the fold of the NATO.

At the same time, Russian parliament passed a legislation on Tuesday calling for recognition to two regions in Donbas held by pro-Russian rebels as independent from Ukraine.

Was Putin sending false leads by troop deployment? A former KGB Intelligence officer, Putin's motive seems beyond the Western Intelligence and media's abilities to decipher. There are various interpretations. Is he really pulling out? No way. Biden told reporters on Friday Russia will invade Ukraine on February 16 and the Putin announcement came on February 15. Was Putin giving up? No way. One other speculation is he may be having a piecemeal approach, winning over a rebellious separatist-infested Donbas territory to his side, using troop mobilisation as a pressure tactic.

Now, Ukraine itself looking less concerned of an invasion than the US and European countries, the standoff is giving way to a melodrama. The disastrous consequences too are a definite deterrence. US sanctions may damage Russian economy but Europe will be a bigger loser with oil and gas supplies from the East cut off in the event of a war, apart from huge losses in terms of life and property. Sections of US media commented, Putin might have been "bluffing all along,” he wanted written guarantee against Ukraine joining the NATO and therefore to press for that he deployed troops along the border.

The story is not over, Biden said a Russian invasion of Ukraine “remains distinctly possible” despite a partial Russian pullout.

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