Western misreporting about these exercises likely began in a misleading Reuters headline. Independent Russian news outlet Interfax accurately reported that 10,000 SMD troops finished exercises and returned “from the field” to their permanent bases. Reuters inaccurately quoted Interfax’s report with the headline, “More than 10,000 Russian troops returning to bases after drills near Ukraine [emphasis added] -Interfax.” Interfax did not characterize the 10,000 troops as exercising “near Ukraine,” did not characterize the SMD report as being a drawdown, and listed the locations where the exercises occurred across southern Russia and the Caucuses. Other Western media outlets ran with Reuters’ characterization of the 10,000 troops withdrawing from “near Ukraine,” amplifying an inaccurate perception of Russia recently reducing its force posture near Ukraine.
Russia likely has not decreased its force posture around Ukraine.