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MADRID: German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Tuesday that Russia must take concrete steps, such as troop withdrawals, to de-escalate tensions over Ukraine.

"Every real step towards de-escalation would be cause for hope," Baerbock said at a news conference with her Spanish counterpart after Russia said some troops were returning to base following exercises near Ukraine.

Moscow has not said how many of the roughly 130,000 troops massed along the Ukrainian border it plans to withdraw and NATO said it had not seen any evidence of a drawdown, prompting a mixture of cautious optimism and scepticism from the West.

UN chief tells Russia, Ukraine of 'serious concern'

"It is now up to Russia to embark on the path of de-escalation and underpin it with very concrete steps such as troop withdrawal," Baerbock said.

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares echoed her sentiment, saying that, if confirmed, any partial withdrawal of Russian troops would be "excellent news" and that it was up to the Kremlin to make the next move:

"We must not underplay the huge tension on the Ukrainian border right now ... The ball is in Russia's court."

He said war was not inevitable and that diplomacy remained the best solution to the crisis.

He said Russia's military presence near the border was unjustified and there was no defensive reason for such a sizeable force.

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