Russia taunts West after pullback, Boris hits back

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After pullout, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, “February 15 will go down in history as the day Western war propaganda failed. The West has been shamed and destroyed without firing a single shot”, reports Asian Lite News

The tense Russia-Ukraine border standoff showed first signs of thaw on Tuesday after Moscow said that it is pulling back some of its forces to their bases. Over 100,000 Russian troops have been stationed along the Ukraine border.

Russian news agencies said that the forces are returning to the bases “after completing their tasks”. After the pullout, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, “February 15 will go down in history as the day Western war propaganda failed,” she wrote. Zakharova further said that the West has been “shamed and destroyed without firing a single shot”.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he is not bolstered by the latest intelligence on Russias military buildup around Ukraine and is receiving “mixed signals”, CNN reported.

“We are seeing Russian openness to conversations. On the other hand, the intelligence that we’re seeing today is still not encouraging,” he said.

“We’ve got Russian field hospitals being constructed near the border with Ukraine, in Belarus for [what] only can be construed as a preparation for an invasion. You’ve got more battalion tactical groups actually being brought closer to the border with Ukraine, according to the intelligence that we’re seeing,” he added, CNN reported.

“So mixed signals, I think at the moment, and all the more reason therefore for us to remain very tough and very united in particular on the economic sanctions,” he said, adding that an invasion could still happen “virtually at any time”, the report said.

Russia announced on Tuesday that some troops would be returning to their bases after completing military drills.

To reassure the UK and other Western leaders, Johnson said they would have to see a “programme of de-escalation” from Russia, the report added.

“That means withdrawing the battalion tactical groups away from a potential theater of conflict, not constructing field hospitals on the border with Belarus and between Belarus and Ukraine; a sense that things are being scaled back, scaled down, that the threat is over and the conversation and negotiation is beginning,” he said.

“We think there is an avenue for diplomacy,” Johnson added.

Major cyberattacks on Ukraine

Meanwhile, a series of cyberattacks Tuesday knocked the websites of the Ukrainian army, the defense ministry and major banks offline. At least 10 Ukrainian websites were unreachable due to the attacks, including the defense, foreign and culture ministries and Ukraine’s two largest state banks. One European diplomat told Reuters that cyberattacks were a longstanding component of Russian strategy, and had been used by Moscow in past military confrontations with Georgia and Ukraine. “It’s part of their playbook,” the official said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow is ready for talks with the US and NATO on limits for missile deployments and military transparency. Speaking after talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Putin said the US and NATO rejected Moscow’s demand to keep Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations out of NATO, halt weapons deployments near Russian borders and roll back alliance forces from Eastern Europe.

US says over 1.5 lakh Russian troops active

Despite Moscow saying some of its troops are returning home, the United States Wednesday warned that a Russian invasion of Ukraine remained a distinct possibility. US President Joe Biden, in a televised address, said that reports of pullback of troops are unverified and revised the number of Russian troops encircling Ukraine from 1,00,000 to 1,50,000.

President Joe Biden

Meanwhile, a series of cyberattacks Tuesday knocked the websites of the Ukrainian army, the defense ministry and major banks offline. At least 10 Ukrainian websites were unreachable due to the attacks, including the defense, foreign and culture ministries and Ukraine’s two largest state banks. One European diplomat told Reuters that cyberattacks were a longstanding component of Russian strategy, and had been used by Moscow in past military confrontations with Georgia and Ukraine. “It’s part of their playbook,” the official said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow is ready for talks with the US and NATO on limits for missile deployments and military transparency. Speaking after talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Putin said the US and NATO rejected Moscow’s demand to keep Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations out of NATO, halt weapons deployments near Russian borders and roll back alliance forces from Eastern Europe.

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