SHANGHAI, May 21 (RIA Novosti) – Russia has pulled its troops back from regions near the border with Ukraine in order to facilitate conditions for its western neighbor’s upcoming presidential elections on May 25, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday.
“Our troops are no longer on the border, a while back I gave the command to deploy them to their permanent bases, now the Defense Ministry has received the order to pull them out of there,” Putin said.
“We keep our troops where we want to,” Putin said, adding that the decision to pull the troops away from the border was made to help facilitate “decent conditions for the elections” and avoiding “speculations.”
He said that “if the weather is good [our Western partners] can see that from space.”
The US said earlier it had received no evidence proving the troops were leaving their temporary bases near the border with Ukraine.
On Monday, Putin ordered the return of all troops involved in drills in the Rostov, Belgorod, and Bryansk regions on the border with Ukraine to their permanent bases to continue their military training.
Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov later confirmed that the withdrawal of troops from temporary bases near the Ukrainian border was already underway.
According to the Defense Ministry, after returning to their permanent bases the troops will begin drills starting June 1.
Ukraine saw a regime change in February when the country’s parliament, backed by far-right movements, voted to strip President Viktor Yanukovych of his powers, amended the constitution and scheduled an early presidential election for May 25. A total of 23 candidates were registered to take part in the vote, but several later withdrew.
Moscow has cast doubt on the legitimacy of the current Kiev authorities, saying that the legitimacy of the upcoming election will depend on a number of conditions including transparency and the interests of the regions.