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cautiously optimistic

NATO, Ukraine skeptical of Russia's partial troop withdrawal: 'We don't believe what we hear, we believe what we see'

Russia has begun returning troops stationed at the Ukrainian border to their bases, the Kremlin announced Tuesday, though both NATO and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky aren't entirely convinced, CNN and CNBC report.

Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the Russian Ministry of Defense, said that Russian forces along the shared border with Ukraine had finished their military drills and "have already begun loading onto rail and road transport and will begin moving to their military garrisons today." He added that Russian troops in Belarus will return to base when their military exercises conclude on Feb. 20.

Other major drills will, however, continue, CNN notes.

That said, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba isn't getting excited. "We in Ukraine have a rule: we don't believe what we hear, we believe what we see," he said in response to Moscow on Tuesday, per CNBC. "If a real withdrawal follows these statements, we will believe in the beginning of a real de-escalation."

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg essentially agreed with Kuleba during a press conference Tuesday, noting that while there's reason for "cautious optimism," the alliance had not yet seen "any sign of de-escalation on the ground from the Russian side."

"Russia has amassed a fighting force in and around Ukraine unprecedented since the Cold War," Stoltenberg said. "Everything is in place for a new attack. But Russia still has time to step back from the brink, stop preparing for war and start working for a peaceful solution."

Moscow said Tuesday that it "had always said its troops would return to their bases after participating in military exercises," CNBC writes.

According to U.S. intelligence, a Kremlin-led invasion could come as soon as Wednesday. Zelensky, unconvinced, instead declared the day one of national unity.