SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine -- Vladimir Putin ordered tens of thousands of Russian troops participating in military exercises near Ukraine's border to return to their bases as Secretary of State John Kerry was on his way to Kiev.
Tensions remained high in the strategic Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea with troops loyal to Moscow firing warning shots to ward off protesting Ukrainian soldiers.
The massive military exercise in western Russia involving 150,000 troops, hundreds of tanks and dozens of aircraft was supposed to wrap up anyway, so it was not clear if the Russian president's move was an attempt to heed the West's call to de-escalate the crisis that has put Ukraine's future on the line.
The massive war games had stoked fears that the Kremlin might use the troops to seize territory in pro-Russian areas of eastern Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the ambassadors of NATO's 28 member nations will hold a second emergency meeting on Ukraine in Brussels on Tuesday after Poland, which borders both Russia and Ukraine, invoked an article calling for consultations when a nation sees its "territorial integrity, political independence or security threatened."
- The Associated Press
First published March 3 2014, 10:13 PM