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Russia announces drawdown but continues to move forces close to Ukrainian border

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu announced on 14 February that Russian forces would begin wrapping up exercises and withdrawing from positions along the Ukrainian border, an announcement that was repeated by his ministry's spokesperson, Major General Igor Konashenkov, the next day.

The announcement was followed by a flurry of video clips posted by the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) purportedly showing equipment being loaded onto trains and being returned to units' permanent bases. The footage claims to show the withdrawal of equipment from Crimea by the 291st Motorised Regiment normally stationed in Chechnya and the 136th Motorised Brigade normally stationed in Dagestan. Later footage posted by the Russian MoD shows trains carrying this equipment out of Crimea over the Kerch Strait bridge.

Additional footage posted by the Russian MoD appears to show T-72B3M main battle tanks from the 6th Tank Brigade loading onto trains near a known camp in eastern Kursk, Janes' analysis of which is inconclusive. At times the footage shows tanks heading towards the railway station and boarding railway wagons, while other clips show them returning to the equipment camp.

Despite Shoigu and Maj Gen Konashenkov's announcement and the subsequent footage posted by the Russian MoD, Janes' analysis of social media and satellite imagery indicates that Russian forces have left the equipment stores established during the ongoing build-up and have moved to new positions significantly closer to the Ukrainian border.

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