MOSCOW (AP) -- The Interfax news agency says Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered troops participating in military exercises in western Russia near the Ukraine border to return to their permanent bases.
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Interfax early Tuesday that Putin had ordered the troops to return to their usual stations. Putin issued the order almost a week after Russia began massive exercises involving most military units in western Russia, stoking fears that the Kremlin might use the troops to seize territory in pro-Russian areas of eastern Ukraine.
Russian troops said to be 16,000 strong tightened their stranglehold on Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula over the weekend, openly defying calls by the U.S. and European Union to withdraw from the region.
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