A day after both the White House and NATO said they are still seeking to verify that Moscow has begun a troop and military assets reduction along the border with Ukraine, Russia has given further indications that it does intend to soon return its heightened deployment posture in the south back to normal.
"Troops in western Russia may return to their usual positions in three to four weeks," Russian Ambassador to Ireland Yury Filatov said in an interview an Irish public broadcaster, marking the first time that such a visible Russian official had indicated such.
He continued by reemphasizing, "What I can tell [you] is, within maybe three to four weeks, the configuration of the forces in the Western region of Russia will resume its normal standard posture. We are conducting planned exercises with Belarusian military forces," according to the comments cited by TASS. He dismissed as "insane" the idea that Russia will attack Ukraine and occupy it.
Amb. Filatov gave the long ago published, scheduled date for the draw down of the exercises: "They will be over by February 20 and these troops will be withdrawn. You can check on that next week," he suggested. This after the West has accused the Kremlin of seeking to keep troops in Belarus long after the end of the major joint drills, has has included the deployment of long-range bombers and even S-400 missile systems. US administration officials had previously estimated Russia could have up to 30,000 troops currently in Belarus with an eye toward Ukraine.
In the interview Filatov also went on the offensive, blasting Western officials who threaten Nord Stream 2 while also claiming Puitn is weaponizing energy as but "propaganda cliches".
"Of course there is no sinister plan in Moscow to destabilize Europe, because we all live in Europe and we want a stable Europe. We have pretty good relations with European countries, including Ireland - and it is just ridiculous to suggest such a thing," the Russian ambassador spelled out. "As far as gas is concerned, over this winter we have been increasing gas supply to Europe over our contractual obligations. I don’t think you can describe that as using gas as a weapon," Filatov added.
Given the predicted Feb.16 invasion date appears to have come and gone, it appears some of Russia's embassies have resorted to a bit of trolling...
He was pressed at one point where the troops currently near Ukraine will go to, to which he responded it's "nobody's business". He explained, "They will go exactly where they need to go. They are going in the Russian territory."
Days ago, the Russian Embassy in the UK issued the below cynical take on the situation and Washington diplomatic aims as follows...
FM #Lavrov: After Russian troops finish drills and return to barracks, West will declare 'diplomatic victory' by having 'secured' Russian 'de-escalation'. Predictable scenario and cheap domestic political points. pic.twitter.com/S58RcmsetA— Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) February 12, 2022
In his Tuesday afternoon speech on the crisis, President Biden claimed that "150,000 Russian troops" now encircle Ukraine, including from inside Belarus. He said a Russian offensive against Ukraine remains "still very much a possibility". This despite the widespread earlier reports of a Russian troop and tank reduction from near Ukraine's border. "That would be good, but we have not yet verified that yet," he concluded.
Got up early b/c the moon is full and I was promised a 'Russian invasion'.— Moon of Alabama (@MoonofA) February 16, 2022
Where is it?