MOSCOW: More than 10,000 Russian troops have been returning to their permanent bases after month-long drills near Ukraine, the Interfax news agency reported on Saturday (Dec 25), citing the Russian military.
Interfax said that the drills were held in several regions near Ukraine, including in Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, as well as in the southern Russian regions of Rostov and Kuban.
Russia's deployment of tens of thousands of troops to the north, east and south of Ukraine had fuelled fears in Kiev and Western capitals that Moscow was planning an attack.
Russia denies any such plans, saying that it needs pledges from the West - including a promise from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) not to expand the alliance eastward towards Russian borders - because its own security is threatened by Ukraine's growing ties with the Western alliance.
Moscow also says that it can deploy its troops on its territory as it sees fit.
Estimates for the number of Russian troops recently moved closer to Ukraine vary from 60,000 to 90,000, with one United States intelligence document suggesting that number could be ramped up to as high as 175,000.
"A stage of combat coordination of divisions, combat crews, squads at motorised units ... has been completed. More than 10,000 military servicemen ... will march to their permanent deployment from the territory of the combined arms' area of drills," Interfax quoted the army as saying.