European stocks rise as Russia says it has pulled back some troops from near Ukraine

Russia is returning some troops to their bases after military exercises were completed, the defence ministry said on Tuesday, signalling some de-escalation of the military build-up on Ukraine’s eastern border.

European equities and US stock futures rose while the oil price fell on news that units from Russia’s southern and western military districts were heading back to base following the completion of drills.

“The units of the southern and western military districts, which have completed their tasks, have already started loading on to rail and road transport and will start moving to their military garrisons today. Individual units will march on their own as part of military columns,” said Igor Konashenkov, defence ministry spokesman.

“A number of combat training events, including exercises, have been carried out as planned. As the combat training events are over, the troops will, as always, perform combined marches to their permanent deployment points,” he stressed.

Europe’s Stoxx 600 equities index jumped 1.1 per cent in early trading, a sharp reversal from a fall on Monday prompted by a US warning that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could be imminent. US S&P 500 futures rose 1.1 per cent.

Russia’s rouble also gained on the news, recently rallying 1.5 per cent against the US dollar, while Ukraine’s currency, the hryvnia, advanced 1 per cent. The trading on Tuesday contrasted with the previous day, when major equities markets were hit by concerns that Russia could invade Ukraine in coming days.

On Monday, Sergei Shoigu, Russian defence minister, said some military drills had finished and others were wrapping up, while foreign minister Sergei Lavrov told President Vladimir Putin of the prospects of a diplomatic way forward in the crisis.

Russia is also conducting joint military exercises in Belarus that are due to continue until February 20.

Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz is due in Moscow on Tuesday for talks with Putin, as diplomatic efforts continue to avert conflict over Ukraine.

In recent weeks Russia is estimated to have maintained a force of more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine, while a further 30,000 have been taking part in exercises in neighbouring Belarus.

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