WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday said the United States has not seen any pullback of Russian troops from Ukraine’s borders and that Moscow has been moving critical units closer to the area.
Russia said more of its forces surrounding Ukraine were withdrawing on Wednesday but NATO said the troop buildup was continuing, questioning Moscow’s stated willingness to negotiate a solution to the crisis.
Blinken backed NATO’s assessment in a morning television interview.
“There’s what Russia says and then there’s what Russia does. And we haven’t seen any pullback of its forces,” Blinken told MSNBC. “We continue to see critical units moving toward the border, not away from the border.”
“So what we need to see is exactly the opposite. We need to see these forces moving away.”
U.S. President Joe Biden made an impassioned appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin to step back from war with Ukraine on Tuesday, speaking starkly of the “needless death and destruction” Moscow could cause and international outrage Putin would face.
Biden said the United States estimates that 150,000 Russian troops now encircle Ukraine, a higher number than previous estimates of about 100,000. He said reports that some forces had withdrawn were welcome, but they were unverified and an invasion remained very much a possibility.