On Tuesday, Russia announced it would significantly cut back its military activity in Kyiv and other parts of northern Ukraine after “meaningful” progress at peace talks in Istanbul.
Russia’s deputy defense minister, Alexander Fomin, said Moscow would “radically reduce military activity in the direction of Kyiv and Chernihiv.”
The move was aimed at “increasing mutual trust, creating the right conditions for future negotiations and reaching the final aim of signing a peace deal with Ukraine,” Fomin said after talks between the two sides had “moved into a practical field.”
According to Fomin, Russia’s General Staff would reveal more detail about those decisions after the Russian delegation returned to Moscow.
Speaking alongside Fomin, Russian negotiator Vladimir Medinsky called the talks “meaningful” and said Vladimir Putin would consider Ukraine’s proposals.
A meeting between the Russian president and his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, was possible in the future, Medinsky said.
CNN reported that Russian presidential aide Vladimir Medinsky said the announcement of plans for a de-escalation by the Russian military around Kyiv and Chernihiv “is not a ceasefire.”
In remarks to Russian state-owned channel RT, Medinsky said the first step agreed to by Russia in talks with Ukraine “concerns a gradual military de-escalation in two main directions — Kyiv and Chernihiv,” adding that “we understand that there are people in Kyiv who need to make decisions, so we do not want to expose this city to additional risk.”
Western officials: Russia is not withdrawing; it redeploys forces in Ukraine
Russia has been unable to swiftly encircle the Ukrainian capital after invading and has recently refocused its attention to Ukraine’s southern and eastern areas.
Russia tried to encircle Kyiv for weeks. However, Ukrainian forces remain in control of large areas of the outskirts of the city. Russian troops managed to get as close as 20km (12km) outside of Kyiv, advancing to the suburb of Irpin.
A U.S. official said any movement of Russian forces from around Kyiv would constitute a “redeployment, not a withdrawal”, Reuters reports.
The official warned that the world should be prepared for continued major offensives against other areas of Ukraine, adding: “They are shifting gears…No one should mistake that for Russia ending the conflict.”
Furthermore, a U.S. official has told the BBC that some Russian forces are withdrawing from the Ukrainian capital. According to the U.S. official, “Yes, we have seen the Russians begin to draw away from Kyiv. But we have little confidence at this stage that it marks some significant shift or a meaningful retreat. The Russians are still pounding Kyiv with airstrikes. Time will tell.”