More than 10,000 Russian troops have been returning to their permanent bases after month-long drills near Ukraine, according to the Russian military.

Russia's deployment of tens of thousands of troops to the north, east and south of Ukraine had fuelled fears in Kiev and Western capitals that Moscow was planning an attack.
Russia's deployment of tens of thousands of troops to the north, east and south of Ukraine had fuelled fears in Kiev and Western capitals that Moscow was planning an attack. (AP)

Russia has announced that more than 10,000 troops finished month-long drills near Ukraine, amid Western accusations that Moscow was plotting an invasion of its ex-Soviet neighbour.

The defence ministry said in a statement on Saturday that the drills for Southern Military District forces had taken place in a host of southern regions including Rostov, Krasnodar and Crimea.

"A stage of combat coordination of divisions, combat crews, squads at motorised units...has been completed," Interfax news quoted the army as saying.

The drills also took place further afield, including in Stavropol, Astrakhan, North Caucasus republics and even in Russia's Caucasus ally Armenia.

The defence ministry said the troops were returning to their permanent bases and that stand-by units would be readied for the New Year's holidays.

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Rising tensions

Estimates for the number of Russian troops recently moved closer to Ukraine vary from 60,000 to 90,000.

One US intelligence document suggested that number could be ramped up as high as 175,000.

Russia says it is free to move its forces on its territory how it sees fit and denies that it is planning a large-scale attack.

It has presented the West with sweeping security demands, saying NATO must not admit new members and seeking to bar the United States from establishing new bases in former Soviet republics.

READ MORE: New satellite images reveal Russia continues to amass troops near Ukraine

Tensions reached a boiling point on Wednesday when President Vladimir Putin said Russia would take "appropriate retaliatory" military steps in response to what he called the West's "aggressive stance".

But he lowered the volume the next day, saying he had seen a "positive" reaction from the United States to Russia's security proposals and said talks would take place next month.

In an interview on Friday, a senior Ukrainian security official told AFP that there is no risk of an imminent Russian invasion.

Kiev has been battling pro-Russia separatists since shortly after Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014 in a conflict that has claimed over 13,000 lives.

READ MORE: NATO chief voices support for Ukraine amid rising tensions with Russia

Source: TRTWorld and agencies