May 29, 2014 11:00 p.m. ET
The U.S. now believes the Russians have pulled back “a majority” of the troops that had been stationed on the Ukrainian border, a senior U.S. defense official said Thursday.
The official said approximately seven battalions remain. A battalion is roughly 1,000 soldiers. At one time, the U.S. believed there were upward of 20,000 Russian troops on the border, with an equal number elsewhere in the vicinity.
The troops were pulled back following a series of public announcements by Russian President Vladimir Putin that he had ordered such a withdrawal, but Western military officials monitoring the region didn’t see evidence of movement for days afterward.
The pullback also comes a week before Mr. Putin travels to France for an international D-Day commemoration.
Speaking on his plane while traveling to Singapore, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called on Moscow to pull back all of its remaining forces from the border.
“We do know thousands of Russian troops have been pulled back and are moving away. But we also know there are thousands of Russian troops still there that have not moved,” Mr. Hagel said.
While Mr. Hagel expressed a degree of optimism, he made clear that U.S. officials want to see a completely demilitarized border
“Any time you are moving troops, equipment and assets away, that is promising,” he said. “But they are not where they need to be, and won’t be, until all the troops they positioned on that border a couple months ago are gone.”
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