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Putin orders troops near Ukraine to return home

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Russian troops near UkraineRussian President Vladimir Putin has ordered troops deployed in regions near Ukraine to return to their home bases, the Kremlin said on Monday.

The move appears to indicate Putin's intention to de-escalate the crisis over Ukraine, the worst in Russia's relations with the West since the end of the Cold War, although previous pledges to withdraw troops have gone unmet.

The West has protested the deployment of 40,000 Russian troops near the border with Ukraine, seeing it as a possible preparation for grabbing more land after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in March.

Putin has previously said he has ordered troops to return from the area near the Ukraine border, but the United States and NATO have said they see no sign of a pullout and have threatened more sanctions if Russia tries to derail Ukraine's presidential vote set for Sunday.

The Russian Defense Ministry insisted that there was no buildup near the border, saying that the troops in the regions in western Russia are involved in regular training.

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