Biden: US has not verified claim of Russia troop withdrawal

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MOSCOW (AP) — President Joe Biden says the U.S. has “not yet verified” Russia’s claim that some of its forces have withdrawn from the Ukraine border. Biden says an invasion of Ukraine remains a distinct possibility.

Biden made the remarks Tuesday at the White House hours after Russia announced that some units participating in military exercises near Ukraine’s borders would begin returning to their bases.

President Biden is acknowledging the likelihood that U.S. and allied sanctions on Russia in retaliation for an invasion of Ukraine would have significant blowback on the American economy, including possible price hikes and disruption to the nation’s energy supply.

Biden says, “The American people understand that defending democracy and liberty is never without cost,” adding, “I will not pretend this will be painless.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier Tuesday said Russia was ready for talks with the United States and NATO on military transparency, missile deployment limits and other security issues. Putin’s statement after hosting Germany’s chancellor on Tuesday added to signs of easing tensions over a Russian military buildup near Ukraine.

Hours earlier, Russia announced that some units participating in military exercises would begin returning to their bases. The Kremlin had signaled Monday that it was still possible for diplomacy to head off what Western officials have said could be an imminent invasion of Ukraine. But much remains unclear about Russia’s plans and how the crisis will play out.

Biden warned again that if Russia invades Ukraine the U.S. “will rally the world to oppose its aggression.”