Russia is going to withdraw some of its troops from near the border with Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday, according to the German leader's office.
If that happens, it will mark the first time since it effectively took Crimea from Ukraine two weeks ago that Russia will have done something that might reduce tensions in the region.
For weeks since the late-February collapse of a pro-Russian government in Kiev, Russia has not only moved to take control of Crimea but has also been flexing its military muscles along the border with Ukraine. Putin and his aides have said forces were sent to the border area for military exercises. The U.S. and its European allies have said they're worried that Russia might be planning to send troops into western Ukraine.
Reuters notes that "Western officials have expressed concern that Putin may have set his sights on pro-Russian Transdniestria, on Ukraine's western border, following the annexation of Crimea."
According to CNN, while Merkel's office reported Putin's statement about withdrawing troops, "a Kremlin press release about the call did not mention a withdrawal, but said Putin and Merkel discussed Ukraine, including 'possibilities for international assistance to restore stability.' "
Even as it was being reported that Russia may withdraw some troops from the border area, "Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev flaunted Russia's grip on Crimea by flying to the region and holding a government meeting there on Monday, angering Ukraine and defying Western demands to hand the peninsula back to Kiev," CNBC writes.
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