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Russian Defense Ministry: trains with weapons, planeloads of troops depart areas near Ukraine

Russia's Defense Ministry says it already has sent several trains carrying weapons and planeloads of troops out of the regions near Ukraine.

It said four trainloads of weapons and 15 Il-76 heavy lift transport planes left the Belgorod, Bryansk and Rostov regions on Tuesday. It said in Thursday's statement that the troops are to reach their permanent bases before June 1.

NATO, which estimates that Russia has 40,000 troops along the border with Ukraine, repeated Tuesday that it didn't yet see any signs of a Russian withdrawal.

Russian President Vladimir Putin scoffed at NATO's skepticism, saying that the pullout involving large numbers of troops would take time. His move reflected an attempt to ease tensions with the West over Ukraine and avoid a new round of Western sanctions.