The latest on the Ukraine-Russia border crisis

By Jeevan Ravindran, Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Maureen Chowdhury, Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 7:03 a.m. ET, February 16, 2022
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6:12 a.m. ET, February 15, 2022

Ukraine skeptical after Kremlin announces withdrawal of some forces near border

From Olga Voytovich and Tim Lister in Kyiv and Uliana Pavlova in Moscow

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba expressed doubts over a Russian statement that some units that had been on military exercises near the country's border would be returning to their bases.

Kuleba told a media briefing in Kyiv that "various statements are constantly being made from the Russian Federation, so we already have a rule: “Do not hear and then believe. But do see and then believe.» 

When we see the withdrawal -- then we will believe in de-escalation," Kuleba said.

However, he welcomed the fact that diplomacy had successfully managed to deter further Russian attacks until now.

"Together with our partners, we have indeed managed to deter Russia from any further escalation. Today is mid-February. And you see that diplomacy continues to work," Kuleba said.

Kuleba also spoke about moves in the Russian parliament to recognize the breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine as independent. Those regions call themselves the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics and have been controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014

"I would like to remind you once again of Ukraine's unchanging position. If a decision on recognition is made, Russia will de facto and de jure withdraw from the Minsk agreements. With all the attendant consequences. We have already warned our partners about this position."

The Minsk agreements are meant to find a pathway to settle the status of the breakaway regions. 

Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the withdrawal of some Russian troops was a “normal process” after the completion of military exercises. 

“We have always said that, after the completion of the exercises, after stages that must be completed within a certain period of time, the troops will return to their places of permanent deployment. This is what is happening this time as well. This is a normal process,” he said. 

“Russia has conducted and will continue to conduct military exercises throughout the territory of the Russian Federation -- this is an ongoing process, as in all countries of the world,” he added. 

According to an earlier statement from the Russian Defense Ministry, military exercises will continue, involving troops from “almost all” Russian military districts. 

Addressing members of the press on Tuesday, Peskov said Russia has the right to carry out such military exercises in its territory, adding that this is “non-negotiable.”

6:06 a.m. ET, February 15, 2022

Some Russian troops on Ukraine border returning to bases but major military exercises continue

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, right, welcomes OSCE Chairman and Poland's Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau during a meeting in Moscow on February 15.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, right, welcomes OSCE Chairman and Poland's Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau during a meeting in Moscow on February 15. (Shamil Zhumatov/Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of the ongoing tensions between Ukraine and the West with Russia. Moscow announced Tuesday it was withdrawing some troops after completing recent drills near Ukraine, but stressed other major military exercises would continue.

The Russian Defense Ministry said troops from its Southern and Western military districts -- parts of which are next door to Ukraine -- had begun returning to their home stations, though the announcement did not say precisely where those troops were permanently based, where they had been exercising, or how many of them were withdrawing.

Russia has amassed more than 130,000 troops near Ukraine's border in recent weeks, according to US estimates, raising fears from Western and Ukrainian intelligence officials that an invasion could be imminent.

Here's a rundown of some of the latest developments:

  • Last ditch western diplomatic efforts continue Tuesday, with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a day after visiting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv. 
  • Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told CNN's Frederik Pleitgen late Monday that Putin is "willing to negotiate," saying the Ukraine crisis was only one part of Russia's larger security concerns.
  • The Kremlin's remarks reflected a slight shift in tone from Moscow. Earlier Monday Russia's top diplomat Sergey Lavrov had insisted, in a carefully choreographed meeting shown on Russian TV Monday, that there is still room for a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
  • Meanwhile in Kyiv, Ukrainians are preparing for an invasion even though they don’t think it's imminent.