Ukraine says it wants to see Russian troops pulling back from its borders, not just hear about it from Moscow. Russia's defense ministry said in a statement today it's withdrawing some of the hundred-thousand troops conducting exercises in military districts bordering Ukraine. In response, Ukraine said, "When we see the withdrawal, then we'll believe the de-escalation." In another development likely to ramp up the tension, the Russian parliament has voted to ask President Vladimir Putin to recognize two self-declared republics in eastern Ukraine as independent. Russia has granted citizenship to more than 700,000 people in the two regions where an insurgency's been going on since 2014.
There's been a burst of diplomacy this morning around the Russia-Ukraine crisis. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on the phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. At the same time, President Biden talked with French President Emmanuel Macron for about 50 minutes. That followed a Russian announcement that it's withdrawing some troops from its border with Ukraine. Ukrainian officials expressed skepticism. Russia has been massing tens of thousands of troops on the border for months.