Ben Wallace Says There Are No Signs Of Russian Withdrawal From Ukrainian Border
Ben Wallace, the Secretary of State for Defence, has said that the UK has not seen evidence to substantiate the Russian claim that it is withdrawing troops from the Ukrainian border.
Wallace on Wednesday morning said that until there were clear signs of "proper de-escalation" from Vladimir Putin that western governments should still be "cautious about the direction of travel from the Kremlin".
The Russian defence ministry yesterday claimed that some of its troops were withdrawing from the border with Ukraine after completing military drills.
However, Wallace said the government had not seen evidence of that as the UK and other western governments continue in their bid to dissuade Putin from invading Russia's neighbour.
Speaking to Sky News, the Defence Secretary said: "What we haven't seen is evidence of withdrawal that has been claimed by the Kremlin.
"In fact, we've seen continued build up of things like field hospitals and strategic weapons systems such as Iskander missiles deployed.
"What I said last week when I visited Moscow is we'll take Russia at its word but judge it on its actions.
"If we're going to build up trust in order to try to de-escalate this incident, what we need to do is make sure we're not building up troops at the same time, and that is still what we see."
The same assessment was put forward by US President Joe Biden on Tuesday.
"The Russian defence ministry reported today that some military units are leaving their positions near Ukraine. That would be good but we have not yet verified that," Biden said, speaking in the White House.
"Indeed, our analysts indicate that they remain very much in a threatening position. And the fact remains right now that Russia has more than 150,000 troops encircling Ukraine".
Yesterday Boris Johnson said there were "signs of a diplomatic opening" with the Kremlin and that the government was seeing "Russian openness to conversations".
"Last night, going into today, clearly there are signs of a diplomatic opening," he said.
However, speaking after chairing a Cobra meeting, the Prime Minister warned that an attack was still a real threat, pointing to continued hostile activity at the border.
"We have Russian field hospitals being constructed near the border with Ukraine, in Belarus, that only can be construed as preparation for an invasion," he said.
"You've got more battalion tactical groups being brought closer to the border according to the intelligence we are seeing. So mixed signals, we are seeing at the moment".
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