Thousands of Russian troops stationed close to the Ukrainian border have been ordered by President Vladimir Putin to retreat and return to their bases, according to local media bulletins.
Business leaders in Europe, especially in Germany, which has more commercial ties with Russia than any other EU nation, hope this is the first step towards the scaling down of Economic sanctions which have contributed towards Germany’s abrupt economic slowdown.
Germany’s business community has been urging lawmakers to find a solution to the economic face off between the EU/US and Russia. In the second quarter of 2014 Germany’s GDP shrank, while the Eurozone’s flatlined.
More than 17,600 Russian troops allegedly on training exercises in the Rostov region have been told to pull back. Rostov-on-Don borders Ukraine.
Russian News Agency TASS says Mr. Putin gave the order to Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu after an urgent meeting with the permanent members of the Russian Security Council on Saturday.
TASS quoted presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who announced on Sunday:
“The minister reported to the Supreme Commander-in-Chief about the end to summertime training at firing ranges in the Southern Military District. After the report Putin ordered to bring troops back to permanent bases.”
The news was confirmed at the Kremlin’s website (in English).
According to the Kremlin, at the meeting with the permanent members of the Security Council, Vladimir Putin discussed the United States, Ukraine, the Ebola virus, and the Islamic State. The members congratulated Putin on his birthday.
Mr. Putin with members of the Security Council on Saturday (Photo: Kremlin)
Wait and see, skeptics say
Skeptics are waiting for compelling evidence that this is not just another empty Putin promise. He announced troop withdrawals earlier this year that never materialized, according to NATO and US intelligence reports.
The United States, European Union and other allies accuse Russia of sending troops and military equipment into Ukraine to help the separatist rebels. Russia vehemently denies the allegation. NATO images presented in August appear to back the accusations.
This time round, however, even hardened doubters are inclined to conclude that perhaps Putin really is being sincere. The Russian economy is in serious trouble, GDP growth is either flat or even shrinking, inflation is rising, there is a serious capital flight problem, and its major source of hard currency (oil & gas exports) is becoming cheaper.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Mr. Putin meet on Friday. Investors and political analysts believe the Russian leader is paving the way so that the US/EU and other allies may remove economic sanctions.
So far, however, NATO and US officials have not seen any compelling evidence of Russian troop withdrawals.
The world needs some good news
World business leaders would dearly love to see an end to sanctions. The IMF has revised down its global GDP growth forecast, Brazil is in recession, China’s economic expansion has slowed down, the Eurozone is at a standstill, Germany is in trouble, and market volatility the world over appears to have become the norm.
President Poroshenko said Ukraine and Russia are very close to a definitive agreement on natural gas supplies to Ukraine.
Mr. Poroshenko said:
“We are now very close to settling the gas dispute issue with the Russian Federation. I hope considerable progress will be showed October 17, next Friday, in Milan.”