Signs of Russian move from Ukraine border

By: Matt McGovern Email
By: Matt McGovern Email

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNN) - The United States has seen the first preliminary signs that Russian forces may be preparing to move away from the border with Ukraine, a U.S. defense official told CNN on Wednesday.

"There is some evidence of preparations for potential movement," the official said. "At a few locations there is evidence of troops packing up, but nothing has moved yet."

The official declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the information. The official also declined to specify the locations and emphasized that actual movement has not yet occurred.

This latest assessment was made days after Russia formally announced it had ordered its troops off the border. And it comes ahead of Ukraine's presidential election scheduled for Sunday.

For months, the United States has estimated that 40,000 troops were on the border. Ever since the latest announcement, the United States has been watching for signs of movement to show up in satellite imagery from the area.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered tens of thousands of troops near the Ukraine border to return to their bases, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday. The withdrawal has started, he said, and could take some time to finish.

But despite Moscow's assertion, there were no signs of the troops' withdrawal, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said hours later.

The United States, which along with other Western countries has sanctioned Russia for its disputed takeover of Crimea, has threatened additional punishment for Russia if it fails to pull its troops back from the border.

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