MOSCOW- Russian troops that took part in military exercises in three provinces bordering Ukraine have packed up and are preparing to return to their permanent bases, the state-run news agency RIA cited the Defence Ministry as saying.

The Kremlin said on Monday that Putin had told his defence chief to order troops back to their bases after drills in the Rostov, Belgorod and Bryansk regions, but NATO and the United States have said they saw no signs of a withdrawal.

A ministry statement said the units in question had spent 24 hours dismantling field camps, packing and preparing military vehicles and were now "moving toward train stations and airfields," RIA reported.