Ukraine says it has evidence alleged Russian troops on its territory are withdrawing

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Ukrainian military officials say they have observed a reduction in the presence of Russian troops in areas at the heart of fighting between government troops and separatist rebels.

Security spokesman Andriy Lysenko said Monday that Russian personnel stationed in field camps in Ukraine have been observed returning to their home bases inside Russia.

Moscow vehemently denies it has troops in Ukraine and that it provides support to separatist forces in Ukraine's largely Russian-speaking eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Lysenko's statement comes after an order by Russian President Vladimir Putin for thousands of troops posted near the Ukrainian border to return to their permanent bases.

Putin's spokesman said late Saturday that Putin had ordered approximately 17,600 troops to return home from the southern region of Rostov.