A senior U.S. official said Lavrov had promised Kerry that a division of Russian troops would be pulled back; a division generally consists of thousands of troops.
“Now there have been reports of possible drawdowns of Russian military forces from the border. We haven’t seen that yet, but if they turn out to be accurate, that would be a good thing,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
Concerns of a possible invasion of eastern Ukraine — home to many ethnic Russians — were stoked by the large numbers of troops Russia had along the Ukrainian border for what Moscow said were military exercises.
One Russian battalion — about 500 troops — that had been sent to the Rostov region next to Ukraine was being withdrawn to its permanent base in the central Samara region, Russian news agencies quoted the Defense Ministry as saying yesterday.
Alexander Rozmaznin, deputy chief of the Ukrainian armed forces command center, also confirmed a drop in Russian troop numbers along the border.
In Kiev, meanwhile, Ukraine’s acting president flatly rejected escalating Russian pressure to turn Ukraine into a loose federation.
“Russia’s leadership should deal with problems in the Russian Federation, and not with Ukraine’s problems,” Ukraine’s acting president Oleksandr Turchinov said. “It is Ukrainians that should dictate the form of the new constitution and how the country is structured.”
Medvedev, who led a delegation of Cabinet ministers on a surprise visit to Crimea, pledged that Russia would quickly boost salaries and pensions and pour in resources to improve education, health care and local infrastructure.
But making no mistake about Russia’s view of the peninsula, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin tweeted a photo of himself upon arrival with the words “Crimea is ours, and that’s that.”
Russia’s defense minister, meanwhile, announced that all Crimean men of conscription age will get a deferral from the draft for one year.