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Example with a context (Russia's pro-Putin media darling loves his new life in Brooklyn — minus the hipsters):

Asked about these alleged close ties to Russian intelligence services, Gabrelyanov says he's never had an agent walk into his office but admits LifeNews "could" have gotten some of its scoops from Russian security services. Pressed to explain, he appears to walk back his comment, saying he didn't mean people from the intelligence services but "citizen security services."

How do you exactly understand that phrase?

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As far as I'm aware, this is non-standard English. Instead, I would write:

he appears to backtrack, saying...

To answer your question, though, the author meant that phrase to be equivalent to "backtrack".

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